An eight-part documentary podcast featuring South Africa’s Wild Bird Trust founder and zoologist Dr Steve Boyes entitled Guardians of the River will take listeners through some of the most unexplored regions of Angola and Botswana along the Okavango River.
The podcast, which won a Jackson Wild Award in the Podcast Category and Best Narrative Nonfiction Podcast Award at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival, is narrated by Cat Jaffee.
The story starts back in 2012 after a chance encounter between Boyes and a National Geographic filmmaker.
Boyes had been living and working in the Okavango Delta to conduct his PhD on Meyer’s Parrot.
This encounter and Boyes’ love for the Delta would lead him on a journey that would ensure it remained protected by future generations.
It spanned four years, eight river expeditions, numerous storytelling and conservation media productions and several events.
In November 2019, the National Geographic Okavango Wilderness Project (NGOWP), in conjunction with the Wild Bird Trust, collaborated with House of Pod to record the project’s first podcast, Guardians of the River.
The 8-episode podcast introduces listeners to different characters as they weave the intricate yet fascinating tale.
From the illusive Savannah or ‘Ghost’ Elephants of Angola to Mukisi, a mythical creature that guards the water, the story of Mr Waterl who survived an encounter with an elephant and a dramatic interaction with a group of hippos during a Mokoro expedition, the stories are gripping and thought-provoking.
The story follows Boyes as he leads a team of scientists and conservationists assembled from Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa.
What they discover, Boyes describes as, a near-pristine environment, untouched by the outside world-largely due to the grim protection of landmines, derelict roads, and an abandoned airstrip.
The Okavango Basin spans three countries: Angola, Namibia and Botswana.
Made up of the many rivers that then feed into the Okavango Delta in Botswana, its eastern source rivers all have source lakes that feed the rivers steadily year-round, something unique in this part of Africa.
It’s also the main source of water for a million people and one of the most biodiverse places in Africa.
The Delta itself is a protected area and is one of the world’s largest wetlands teaming with wildlife- an oasis of biodiversity.
It supports the world’s largest remaining elephant population as well as lions, cheetahs, wild dogs, hundreds of species of birds, and the ancient customs and tribal belief systems of the people who inhabit its shores.
This is the treasure of wilderness the Wild Bird Trust, a South African non-profit trying to protect it through partnership, long-term commitment and sustainable development with local communities.
“We have the chance to make things right for the people of Angola so that everyone benefits from tourism, conservation, and development in that region.
“It’s important to protect the water and the wildlife, but we need to draw on the ancient knowledge and wisdom of the local people to ensure it’s done respectfully and proportionally,” said Dr Steve Boyes, founder of the Wild Bird Trust.
He said the goal through the podcast is to help sustainable development in Angola regain the last forty years.
“The country is rich in diversity beginning with the water and with little protection currently in place.
“Through this podcast and other initiatives, we hope to bring much needed international attention to attract conservation efforts, education, and funding,” he explained.
Listen to Guardians of the River here.
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