Tuesday, April 24, 2018

How One Expedition Team is Trying to Save the Okavango Delta

Located in the heart of Botswana, the Okavango Delta is a vast inland river delta that forms each year by seasonal flooding. Rains in the Angola Highlands flow down the Okavango River, but rather than be deposited in a lake or ocean, they simply spread out across the plains, covering an area of about 8500 square miles (22,014 sq. km) for several months of the year. This results in a large ecosystem where a variety of plant life grows, attracting large numbers of animals to the otherwise dry and desolate region.

This amazing place is the largest intact watershed in Africa and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. But, it has also come increasingly under threat from a variety of sources, including poaching, ongoing conflicts across the region, industrialization, irrigation, and climate change. But a dedicated group of conservationists is looking to protect the Delta and have undertaken an impressively massive expedition to explore its vast expanse.

Dubbed the Okavango Wilderness Project, the team is supported by National Geographic and have spent years charting the Delta from "source to sand." They've started up in the highlands where the rivers that feed the Okavango begin and wandered down all the way to where it terminates on the planes of Botswana, the water evaporating into the air as part of its seasonal process. This team, led by South African Steve Boyes, has gone the length and breadth of the region in an effort to understand it better.

Now, the OWP is getting a chance to tell its story. Nat Geo has published an excellent article about the team's efforts, including interviews with its members and a look back at the long history of their journey. A documentary film (see the trailer below!) about the project has also just debuted, sharing a rare inside look at the Delta with an audience that most likely doesn't even know that this place even exists. The hope is to raise awareness of this part of the world, the importance it plays with the African ecosystem, and how fragile it can be.

The Nat Geo article describes the Okavango Delta as one of the last great wildernesses on the planet, and for the most part it does largely remain unexplored and untouched by man. The animals that live there number in the millions and the region is a unique ecosystem that follows a set course year in and year out. But as the waters that flow into the Delta become threatened, or disappear altogether, this ancient wilderness runs the risk of disappearing altogether. The dedicated men and women working on the Okavango Wilderness Project are hoping to prevent that.

Read the entire story here.


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