National Geographic Live! “Reviving the Heart of Wild Africa”
Africa is changing rapidly. Roads and railways are being built into remote wilderness areas to enable economic development through resource use. Gold, oil, timber, rare earth minerals, iron, coal, gas and much else has been extracted at an alarming rate over the last 50 years. The wildlife trade has surged to new heights on a continent with dwindling animal numbers. Mining and natural resource use is booming in the new millennium as rapid urbanization degrades rural communities that have custodial rights to our last-remaining wilderness areas. Rhino and elephant are being eradicated by poachers to supply lucrative markets in the Far East. Lion are being persecuted by livestock farmers and predators like wild dog and cheetah are on the brink of extinction. With Africa’s population approaching 1 billion and foreign powers scrambling for our natural resources there is simply nowhere to hide, no safe places for wildlife, no refuge from the “sixth extinction”. In the next 15-20 years we are going to lose our last wilderness areas to poor land management, pollution, poaching, wildlife trade, logging, agriculture, conflict, and the devastation of large-scale mining across the continent. The impacts are clear and Africa is just about to change forever. The great beating heart of this ancient continent, the birthplace of humankind, is dying.
Work in the Okavango Wilderness…
The Okavango Delta is Africa’s last-remaining wetland wilderness, a vast network of channels, floodplains, lagoons and thousands upon thousands of islands. Every year we cross this enigmatic delta in dug-out canoes or “mokoros” over 18 days to advocate for UNESCO World Heritage Status and undertake a long-term study of the relationship between 71 wetland bird species and the flood regime in this vast wetland system. Every year we are able to access more remote areas to witness the nature of a true wilderness area. Our mentors and guides are the last-remaining baYei River Bushman. They have taught us to survive in and off this wilderness. They have tutored us on how to navigate the maze of channels that branch out from the main channels that are too dangerous for us to use. We interact directly with hippos, crocodiles, elephant, lion and buffalo. The baYei have also shown us the importance of a calm, balanced mind that is spring-loaded for action should the need arise. We still arrive with all the paraphernalia of the modern world, but our mentors, the baYei, still arrive for each expedition with only the clothes on their back and a small bag, secure in the knowledge that the “Mother Okavango” will provide and take care of them. Next week we are departing on our fourth crossing of the Okavango Delta – 300km over 18 days. Very exciting! We stand-up “pole” the dug-out canoes all the way and do it unarmed, accepting no assistance and using no modern technology beyond the laptops and satellite phones we use to share our experiences in real-time with people around the world. I will spend the rest of my life celebrating and protecting this important wilderness area for future generations… Go to: http://www.okavangofilm.com/
Rebuilding a destroyed wilderness for the parrots…
My home is Hogsback in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa, the mountain stronghold of Africa’s most endangered parrot, the Cape parrot. From our base on a small farm we work everyday to stimulate positive change for the parrots and other threatened forest endemics. In 2011, we launched the iziKhwenene Project, a community-based conservation project that aims to establish local communities as the stewards and custodians of South Africa’s last-remaining Afromontane yellowwood forests. These forests were over-exploited for hundreds of years and are now unable to support parrots and most other species. We have now planted the first 25,000 out of 1 million indigenous trees in and around these forests. Restoring these forests is a multi-generational effort that will require the commitment of local communities. We have erected over 250 wooden nest boxes to support increased breeding success. Our Cape Parrot Sanctuary is visited by almost 300 (25-30% of the global population) Cape parrots everyday for 5 months of the year. In addition, our research has demonstrated that the primary threat to their persistence in the wild is Pssitacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD) and the outbreak since 2009 is supported by starvation and malnutrition due to poor rainfall and the degraded condition of the indigenous forests. A vaccine has now been developed and we have managed to develop a successful rehabilitation protocol for Cape parrots with advanced symptoms of PBFD infection. We are making a difference, but need your help to save South Africa’s national parrot. Go to: http://www.parrots.org/index.php/ourwork/home/cape_parrot
Steve Boyes has dedicated his life to conserving Africa's wilderness areas and the species that depend upon them. After having worked as a camp manager and wilderness guide in the Okavango Delta and doing his PhD field work on the little-known Meyer's Parrot, Steve took up a position as a Centre of Excellence Postdoctoral Fellow at the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology. He has since been appointed the Scientific Director of the Wild Bird Trust and is a 2014 TED Fellow. His work takes him all over Africa, but his day-to-day activities are committed to South Africa's endemic and Critically Endangered Cape Parrot (Poicephalus robustus). Based in Hogsback Village in the Eastern Cape (South Africa), Steve runs the Cape Parrot Project, which aims to stimulate positive change for the species through high-quality research and community-based conservation action. When not in Hogsback, Steve can be found in the Okavango Delta where he explores remote areas of this wetland wilderness on "mokoros" or dug-out canoes to study endangered bird species in areas that are otherwise inaccessible. Steve is a 2013 National Geographic Emerging Explorer for his work in the Okavango Delta and on the Cape Parrot Project.
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