Yesterday, just after 5pm during rush hour traffic across South Africa I answered two quick questions about being a 2014 TED Fellow and crossing the Okavango Delta without any assistance for the fourth time on the “Celebrity Express” with Catherine Grenfell on 5FM’s “Fresh Drive”. This is one of the most popular radio shows in South Africa and a great way to get the people talking about the Okavango Delta. Well done! to DJ Fresh and 5FM for getting the Okavango Delta some much-needed exposure in amongst the pop songs, callers, prizes, interviews and good-old radio chaos. Maybe next time we will call into the Fresh Drive via satellite phone and chat LIVE to a few South Africans on their way home? Connect the wilderness to the urban jungle?
In March next year I will have opportunity to present our conservation work at TED2014 in Vancouver. 2014 marks TED’s 30th anniversary and the theme is “The Next Chapter”. My short, 4-minute talk will focus on remembering a planet that was as wild as the Okavango Delta and keep alive the hope that we can restore what we have destroyed already…
Our priority at the Percy FitzPatrick Institute is “to promote research that supports the maintenance of biological diversity” by gathering high-quality empirical data that supports conservation actions on the ground, often using birds as indicators for change. This is exactly what we do in the annual Okavango Wetland Bird Survey that uses common wetland bird species and some of the rarer species as indicators for significant change in this sensitive wetland ecosystem. We are just now beginning to understand their complex interaction with the annual floods as new feeding and breeding habitat are exposed each year on drained floodplains. The Okavango Delta is a hugely important flyway for migratory bird species and a sanctuary for over 530 bird species.
In our new partnership with the Office of Creative Research called intotheokavango.org pushes back the boundaries of open source data and sharing the LIVE expedition experience. This site displays data which is uploaded daily, via sattelite, by the expedition team in the Okavango delta. Data is also available through a public API, allowing anyone to re-mix, analyze, or visualize the collected information. Next year, we aim to get this site into classrooms around the world, sharing our movements and experiences live with young people all over. Please go to the site, http://intotheokavango.org/, and explore our exact footsteps as we undertook our most gruelling research expedition ever…
In September this year, we were fortunate to have a popular South African nature show called “50/50” with us on the 2013 Okavango Expedition. The producer and presenter joined in all our hardships and faced the wilderness inspired by this living eden. We were charged by hippo and crocodile and had lion walk past camp twice. We had a clan of hyena charge our wilderness camp on Chief’s Island and big bull elephants were scattered along the length of the Okavango’s main channels. The two 10-12 minute inserts for the show are absolutely amazing. I have seen the previews and was blown away. The inserts will be shown on SABC2 at 19h30 on Monday 23rd and 30th December. Each insert will be uploaded a few weeks after airing. I will post the links on this blog: http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/blog/okavango/
Early next year, a small 3-part reality series called “Bush Boyes – Across the Okavango” will be aired in South Africa and then around the world. This stunningly-shot series follows my brother, wife and I, as we attempt our first unassisted crossing of the Okavango Delta. It felt a bit strange having five dug-out canoes filled with production crew following you in the distance and camping on nearby islands. They were not allowed to assist us in anyway and access to us was restricted. This was a life-changing journey down the wild channels of the Okavango Delta that pushed us to our mental and physical limits. The 2012 Okavango Expedition was very different from this year’s crossing with more unknown and the feeling of being exposed with only two mokoros. We make this crossing every year, but this was the first time we poled the whole way, proving to ourselves that a 2-month expedition 1,000 miles down the length of the Okavango River, source to delta down the Cuito Subcatchment, one of the remotest rivers on earth.
Please go to the new website for the Wild Bird Trust to see our new page for the Okavango Wetland Bird Survey: http://www.wildbirdtrust.com/portfolio/okavango-wetland-bird-project/