Humanity has 10 years to save the planet from destruction and, optimistically speaking, would only save about 30% of fauna and flora species, according to conservation biologist and senior TED Fellow Dr Steven Boyes during a TED talk held in Cape Town recently.
Boyes is the driving force behind the National Geographic Okavango Wilderness Project (NGOWP) that involves travelling thousands of kilometres through the reeds and rivers of Namibia, Angola and Botswana. The project seeks to preserve untouched forests and clean water by working with previously uncontacted tribes, government and fellow scientists to gather as much data as possible.
People indigenous to the Delta, many of whom have not been contacted by other people for many years, if ever, are integral in lending their knowledge and explaining their challenges to help preserve arguably the last untouched plethora of trees and unknown species left in the world.
The project takes place in regions where species biodiversity is virtually unknown.
The first survey took place in 2015 and 2016 across the Cubango-Cuito-Okavango and Cuando river basins in Angola, where it was imperative to collect information on water, animals and vegetation.
The Delta is home to the world’s largest elephant colony, with an abundance of crocodiles, hippo, birds, fish, buck, lions, amphibians and reptiles, to name but a few.
Boyes says his team has so far discovered 32 species previously unknown to science. These unique ecosystems have formed an intricate, diverse circle of life, and even though we do not yet know exactly how these ecosystems interact, one thing is certain – they have thrived because people have not yet interfered.
And this is exactly how Boyes wants to keep it, which is why his passion for making the NGOWP a success is palpable.
Humans are without a doubt the most unsustainable species to walk the earth.
Cultures and communities that were previously sustainable have unfortunately been exposed to modern economies, and have since begun to practise unsustainable slash-and-burn agriculture, clearing forests to accommodate population growth.
Conservation efforts in the Okavango Delta have been an ongoing challenge, mainly because the basin spans three countries – Namibia, Angola and Botswana – explains Sekgowa Motsumi, an Okavango Basin Program director.
The NGOWP is one of a select few projects that focuses on preserving the Delta, with the end goal being to protect the delta’s source waters.