Changing Planet

An Update Direct From the Okavango, for World Wetlands Day.

This year I am celebrating World Wetlands Day in Luanda, Angola where we have
just launched the new Portuguese issue of the National Geographic magazine,
featuring an article documenting our journey to the source of one of Africa’s most
important wetland systems- the Okavango-Zambezi Basin. There is a new energy in
the city, with a new administration in place. Just yesterday the new government
held its commitment to halt all timber harvesting until new policies with greater
regulations are in place. This is encouraging for our aim to help protect the
important wetlands of the Okavango-Zambezi water tower nestled in Angola’s
central highlands. When the Okavango Wilderness Project first ventured into the
area in 2015, we were not sure what to expect. We were surprised to find a not a
few, but a series of pristine source lakes connected by an extensive matrix of
stratified peat beds. This complex wetland system is actively collecting and
releasing the seasonal waters to ensure the constant ebb and flow of the rivers that
sustain over one million people in the basin and the largest population of African
elephants, found over 800 miles downstream in the Okavango Delta. These wetlands
hold value not only for their aesthetic beauty and the harbor they provide to
important birds, including the critically endangered wattled crane – they are also
the heart of the water system providing drinking water, sanitation and a host of
natural resources to the neighboring communities. Over the next year we will
continue to support the government of Angola to establish a new Ramsar site for the
water tower as we work together towards more formal protection of the basin
ecosystem.

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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