On December 4, 2018, the National Geographic Society and the Angolan Ministries of Environment and Tourism signed a Protocol of Cooperation committing to a four-year partnership to help safeguard the Okavango River Basin headwaters located in the Angolan highlands.
The ceremonial signing took place at the Angolan premiere of National Geographic Documentary Film’s “Into the Okavango.” National Geographic Society Executive Vice President and Chief Scientist Jonathan Baillie, National Geographic Fellow Dr. Steve Boyes, National Geographic Explorer Adjany Costa and other members of the National Geographic Okavango Wilderness Project (NGOWP) team were on hand at the event.
“We believe this partnership adds value in supporting our urgent efforts to preserve biodiversity in Angola,” said Paula Coelho, Minister of Environment for Angola.
NGOWP is partnering with the Angolan government in implementing the Angolan National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, as well as other regional conservation and tourism efforts. As a partner, NGOWP will facilitate better knowledge and understanding about basin ecosystems and the services they provide through biodiversity and environmental monitoring, as well as community engagement. This work will support the effective management of the natural resources of the Okavango-Zambezi Water Tower, capacity building, sustainable development, and the development of tourism in the region.
“This commitment between the Angolan government and the National Geographic Society is vital to the protection and sustainable exploration of the natural resources of the Okavango,” said Angolan Minister of Tourism Ângela Bragança. “We are glad to formalize this partnership by signing this Protocol of Cooperation between the Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Tourism, and the National Geographic Society.”
The Okavango River Basin provides water to about one million people and supports the world’s largest population of African elephants, significant populations of lions and cheetahs and hundreds of species of birds. This part of Angola is one of the last wild places on Earth. While the Okavango Delta is a UNESCO World Heritage site, the vital headwaters of the Okavango are not protected—and they are threatened by human encroachment, increased deforestation and development.
“The Okavango River Basin is one of the world’s last remaining vast wild watersheds and its continued health is critical for the security of the region, for maintaining the amazing diversity of wildlife and for supporting local livelihoods and the economy,” said Jonathan Baillie. “National Geographic looks forward to working with the Angolan government to ensure the vitality of this unique system for people and wildlife for generations to come.”
The NGOWP team is an interdisciplinary collaboration between local African researchers and experts and international colleagues and scientists. Together, with the support of the Angolan government, they are surveying the area to record its extraordinary biodiversity and collect information on the health of the waters, joining with National Geographic filmmakers, photographers and writers to document the sights, sounds and progress along the way.
With the knowledge and imagery they gather, the NGOWP and the National Geographic Society aim to inform decision-makers of the value of greater protection for the vital Okavango watershed and surrounding areas. For without it, the Delta and the amazing species living there are under threat.
National Geographic Documentary Films’ “Into the Okavango” chronicles the NGOWP team of modern-day explorers on their epic four-month, 1,500-mile expedition across three countries to help save the river system that feeds the Okavango Delta. Directed by National Geographic Society filmmaker Neil Gelinas, the film features stunning wildlife photography and aerial views of rarely seen vistas. “Into the Okavango” is a deeply moving chronicle of modern-day explorers forever transformed by the adventure of a lifetime. It premieres on December 14 on Nat Geo WILD.
Interested individuals are encouraged to follow the team’s work by visiting natgeo.org/okavango.