Get to know people who really make a difference! Project Impacts is a series of articles explaining the background and settings for some of the many projects we partner with around the world. In this series, you will learn about the goals of the projects and what impact they have had on their local community, and how you can fit into this picture. Today we are super-excited to present Andrea from Oana who explains how you can help change the face of wildlife conservation in Namibia.
Why visit Oana and join an expedition?
Oana conservancy is a rare and out-of-this-world opportunity, it is one of the last true wildernesses of Southern Africa in which you are completely able to roam free and explore. An expedition with Oana is the closest you’ll get to going back in time and setting out on a Livingstone style adventure. Oana is untouched by science, unexplored by mankind and waiting to unravel what secrets may lie within. You will live 100% off the grid, be one of the first to map the area, pinpoint which species survive in the harsh semi-arid mountainous desert, which mammals are hiding in the banks of the lush, green 50km of Orange River and what birds are hatching on cliff-edge nests.
With global populations quickly depleting, rhino and elephants on the brink of extinction; renowned Conservationist Ian Craig, whom is Prince William and Sir David Attenborough’s right hand man when it comes to wildlife conservation, made the heroic decision to intervene and secured the 45,000 hectares which is now Oana conservancy with the single aim of ensuring the survival of Africa’s remaining mega-fauna. The aim of the volunteering program is to carry out baseline research on the conservancy and re-wild the land from livestock/hunting reserve back into its natural ecosystem. The volunteer program is fundamental in transitioning the land from a reserve into a National Park within 15 years – this is the ultimate aim. All the conservation projects are carried out by volunteers and funded by volunteers. Without you there would be no funding for land management, (fixing water points for wildlife, taking down inner boundary fences, removing alien species, the reintroduction of wildlife etc.) your role is crucial and you will see how your time makes a huge difference. Each expedition focuses on key projects, therefore there are no gimmicky activities; you will work on what actually needs to get done.
Conservation is not always glamorous but you will come away feeling a huge sense of accomplishment. We are at the early phase of re-wilding, you will be involved in baseline surveys of fauna and flora: setting up traps & identification, plant pressing and logging, camera trap leopard survey through habitat types, fixed-point camera study of habitat desertification, soil study. Once all the data is collected and we understand our ecosystem a lot better, then we can start considering reintroductions so that we do not upset the ecosystem. You will be a part of real conservation and every person joining an expedition will make his/her mark and leave knowing they made a difference to the future of the critically endangered wildlife of Namibia. If you have specific skills or interests please do voice this beforehand so we can tailor and set up projects specific to you.
With conservation comes community, we like to give back where we can. We have teamed up with the Ministry of Forestry and from March 2017 volunteers will be involved in setting up Warmbad’s (our local village) first ever community vegetable garden. Food security is a big problem in our area. The land is harsh and crops fail, it has not rained properly in 3 years and the community is struggling. We are going to teach drip irrigation and other efficient permaculture techniques so the locals can start producing their own food.
Now comes the fun part…
Expeditions are led by scientists (the fun kind) Andrea and Ed, who met at Durrell Institute of Conservation Ecology in Kent during their MSc. Once they graduated they got straight into the action and moved to Northern Tanzania to work in community conservation. Andrea worked in education and outreach making wildlife education films for children living in rural areas and Ed set up a bee-keeping business for the Maasai women as a women empowerment project. After a year in Tanzania – Ian Craig, having worked with Ed before in Kenya, offered them the opportunity and now here they are leading what could be your next trip abroad! Ed and Andrea are not just your project leaders, they do their utmost to create a family during each expedition, they will guide you, be your mentor and most importantly be your friends. It’s tough being out in the bush, away from home and living off the grid. Conservation is hard work, but Ed and Andrea’s love for the natural world and passion for protecting it will get you pumped and you will not want to leave when the time comes.
‘A wee glimpse’
Highlights are 3-day fly camp missions to the Orange River. Ed and Andrea will get you up early at base camp, tuck into a hearty breakfast prepared by the camp chef, and lead you on an epic 2-hour walk through canyons, river beds, dry waterfalls and finally arriving at the oasis of a river in the middle of the surrounding rocky peaks. You will be hot and sweaty and so glad to arrive, strip straight into your swimwear and splash about all day in the river. There are no crocs, no hippos and no scary things so you can spend all day wallowing like hippos, reading a book, fishing or simply cracking open a nice, cold beer. You will camp out in mosquito dome tents on the sandy beaches on the river bank, start a barbie and taste all sorts of exotic wild game meat, roast marshmallows and share memories you’ll cherish forever. Once in your tent, switch off your torch and watch the carpet of stars in the sky and shooting stars fall towards you – a sight which will blow you away.
Ready to join the adventure? Visit the Re-wilding Environmental Development Project page for full details and connect directly with Andrea!