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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.
Steve Boyes
The abundance of life on a floodplain in the center of the Okavango Delta. Wildlife in the Moremi Game Reserve has not been hunted for generations and have always been seen as the “royal hunting grounds”. What will a ban on all commercial hunting achieve? (Steve Boyes)
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/
Clinton Phillips / www.natureguidingcompany.com
Some beautiful hippos posing as we passed in the mokoros… This was a day in “hippo heaven”! (Clinton Phillips / www.natureguidingcompany.com)
Giles Trevethick
Dr Steve Boyes exiting the Okavango River via a narrow papyrus gap. Upon entering the river the front of the mokoro was swept downstream, making passage upstream to get above the exit point on the other side of the river all that more difficult. (Giles Trevethick)
"Lily reflection", by guide Andrew Schoeman. A Waterlilly in the Okavango Delta, Botswana. The water was calm and offered a great reflection of the flower. (Andrew Schoeman / andrewschoemanphotography.co.za)
(Andrew Schoeman / andrewschoemanphotography.co.za)
Kirsten Wimberger
Young children playing while they and their mothers wait for the boat or mokoro to come and pick them up at the Jedibe boat station… (Kirsten Wimberger)
Sparring lechwe, by guide Brendon Cremer. A couple of Lechwe spar in the early morning as the sun rises, the dust from the rest of the herd as they move back towards the marsh adding some great mood and drama to the image. Photographed in the Okavango Delta, Botswana. (Brendon Cremer / brendoncremerphotography.com)
Sparring lechwe, by guide Brendon Cremer. A couple of Lechwe spar in the early morning as the sun rises, the dust from the rest of the herd as they move back towards the marsh adding some great mood and drama to the image. Photographed in the Okavango Delta, Botswana. (Brendon Cremer / brendoncremerphotography.com)
"Swimming the gauntlet", by guide Matthew Copham. Lions do not like crossing the water, where they relinquish their position as the alpha predator. The look in their eyes says it all. Photographed at Wilderness Safaris Duba Plains, in the Okavango Delta, Botswana. (Matthew Copham / safarifootprints.com)
“Swimming the gauntlet”, by guide Matthew Copham. Lions do not like crossing the water, where they relinquish their position as the alpha predator. The look in their eyes says it all. Photographed at Wilderness Safaris Duba Plains, in the Okavango Delta, Botswana. (Matthew Copham / safarifootprints.com)
Neil Gelinas (Screenshot)
The “Bush Boyes”, Steve and Chris, poling past an animal crossing to the west of Vundumtiki Island as another big storm approaches… (Neil Gelinas (Screenshot))
Giraffe herd, by guide Andy Biggs. Photographed in the Okavango Delta, Botswana. (andybiggs.com)
Giraffe herd, by guide Andy Biggs. Photographed in the Okavango Delta, Botswana. (andybiggs.com)
Zebra dazzle at sunset, by guide Phill Steffny. Photographed in the Okavango Delta, Botswana (Phill Steffny Safaris)
Zebra dazzle at sunset, by guide Phill Steffny. Photographed in the Okavango Delta, Botswana (Phill Steffny Safaris)
Giles Trevethick
Dr Steve Boyes trying to pick out the way through an open floodplain. Wherever possible we try to cut corners and use open floodplains to avoid the deep water in the channels. (Giles Trevethick)
"Shy cub", by guide Brendon Cremer. “We were extremely lucky to come across this shy young leopard hiding in the fork of a tree. Although you see signs and sometimes even hear the calls of leopards at Duba, they are a very uncommon sight, so to be able to spend about twenty minutes with him was a great pleasure. Photographed at Wilderness Safaris Duba Plains, Okavango Delta, Botswana. (Brendon Cremer / brendoncremerphotography.com/ wilderness-safaris.com)
“Shy cub”, by guide Brendon Cremer. “We were extremely lucky to come across this shy young leopard hiding in the fork of a tree. Although you see signs and sometimes even hear the calls of leopards at Duba, they are a very uncommon sight, so to be able to spend about twenty minutes with him was a great pleasure. Photographed at Wilderness Safaris Duba Plains, Okavango Delta, Botswana. (Brendon Cremer / brendoncremerphotography.com/ wilderness-safaris.com)
Chris Boyes
Steve and Chris Boyes after a two-day struggle to drive from Vundumtiki Island to Maun… Well done to our LandRover Defender!! (Chris Boyes)
Kirsten Wimberger
African jacana eggs in a remote floodplain of he Okavango Delta (Botswana). These decorated eggs are taken care of by the male jacanas. (Kirsten Wimberger)
Lee Whittam / essentialafrica.co.za
“Part of the well known lion prides of Wilderness Safaris Duba Plains Camp in the heart of the Okavango Delta, Botswana. This was one of 9 kills we witnessed during the course of a 4 day safari there.” (Lee Whittam / essentialafrica.co.za)
Amy Attenborough
Okavango giant amongst the lilies, photographed by guide Amy Attenborough of AndBeyond. Image taken at Sandibe in the Okavango Delta, Botswana. (Amy Attenborough)
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
Please also join the Cape Parrot Project group… https://www.facebook.com/groups/capeparrotproject/
Cape parrots are endemic to South Africa and with little food left in their natural habitat they are struggling to bring back population levels since a collapse in the 1980s. (Rodnick Clifton Biljon / Cape Parrot Project)
Cape parrots are endemic to South Africa and with little food left in their natural habitat they are struggling to bring back population levels since a collapse in the 1980s. (Rodnick Clifton Biljon / Cape Parrot Project)
A shining example of a female Cape Parrot in flight... This is the future of the species and we need to make sure she has a safe place to live and has access to food yearround. (Rodnick Clifton Biljon / Cape Parrot Project)
A shining example of a female Cape Parrot in flight… This is the future of the species and we need to make sure she has a safe place to live and has access to food yearround. (Rodnick Clifton Biljon / Cape Parrot Project)
Rodnick Clifton Biljon / Cape Parrot Project
Absolutely stunning portrait of a proud, wild Cape parrot sitting in a Cape lilac tree (often erroneous called a syringa tree). These yellow fruits are thought to be poison, but the parrots have been recorded eating them for over 50 years. (Rodnick Clifton Biljon / Cape Parrot Project)
Steve Boyes
Wild male Cape parrot that broke his wing when flying into a large power line. He escaped with his life, but will never fly again. These amazing aviators fly up to 250km per day to take advantage of distant feeding grounds. Here he looks out and remembers the freedom he once knew in the skies… (Steve Boyes)
Steve Boyes
Young male Cape parrot that tested positive for Pssitacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD) virus and more than likely died a few days later from bad cold weather and snow. (Steve Boyes)
Francoise Joubert
The third Cape parrot to be handed in by the general pubic in April and May 2011. As one newpaper pointed out “Cape Parrots falling out the skies in King William’s Town” (http://www.sowetanlive.co.za/news/2011/04/08/cape-parrots-falling-out-the-skies-in-king-william-s-town). We managed to save four of the 12 parrots that were handed in. Four arrived dead, four died overnight, and four were released back into the wild after 6 months in quarantine. (Francoise Joubert)
Steve Boyes
Cape parrot (sex unknown) photographed in late April 2011 just before the first severe cold snaps. Two days later w had the first frost. A regional food shortage due to drought may have contributed to the 100% infection rates we recorded at four locations. (Steve Boyes)

 

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Comments

  1. Hennie
    South Africa
    August 30, 2013, 1:19 am

    Steve, all the best for the Okavango trip. I’m sure its going to be another experience of a life time! Can’t wait to watch the film.

  2. Jai Mohan
    India
    August 29, 2013, 11:17 am

    It is indeed very sad and ironical that economic development is done at the cost of country’s natural resources. Forests are cut , flora and fauna are destroyed and serious ecological imbalances are created which are often irreversible.
    Presently India is also facing issues similar to Africa. Business Houses are demanding that pristine forests be given to them for mining. A Minister who refused to grant permission was moved to another ministry. However the community of some very devoted conservationists continue to raise their voice.

  3. Nina
    Ottawa ~ Canada
    August 29, 2013, 6:16 am

    I’m amazed over the huge job you guys are doing! Africa would not be same without you and your constant effort to make it a good place for everyone to live. Keep up the fantastic job, and let me know if you get any openings! :o)