British conservationist Sacha Dench will be flying 4,500 miles on a paramotor – a parachute of sorts – to chart the migratory passage of the Bewick's swans. Dench, who currently works for the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) will be travelling across 11 countries, tracking the swans' migration, in a 10-week-long expedition.
The sportswoman, who is a former British and Australian free-diving champion, is slated to travel late next year from the Russian Arctic to the WWT headquarters at Slimbridge in Gloucestershire. The British conservationist would take flight with the help of a parachute strapped to a propeller engine. She believes that this would be the best way to travel the inhospitable parts of the Arctic tundra.
Since the contraption will allow her to land and take off on foot, it provides the most advantage, she claimed. Speaking about the upcoming journey, Dench said, "We have to get used to flying in the cold, it could be -9C. Taking off [with the paramotor] is one thing, it's energetic, but once you're flying you're reasonably static, you're just moving your arms. If you get too cold, your decision-making gets sloppy. If your feet get too cold, you can't land on them, because you need to land running."
In addition to braving Arctic temperatures, the conservationist will have to condition herself in making early starts and carrying almost 35 to 40kg of equipment on her back. Dench said: "I can carry that at the moment, but the thing is being able to run with it, to take off."
Talking about the importance of her expedition, Dench stressed, "This expedition is very close to my heart. It's a chance to learn more about Bewick's swans and why they're declining. But just as important, it's a chance to bring people from very different cultures together because the swans' fate rests in our hands. We can't let the Bewick's swan population's decline continue for another decade."
Wildlife experts claim that at present, there are only around 16,000 Bewick's swans left in the world. The number of the specie has declined over the past few years, with about half of the birds lost in the past decade alone.
WWT is looking for volunteers to complete Dench's expedition team. Currently, the team consists of Dench, a Russian communications specialist, Alexander Bogdanov, and an unnamed pilot. WWT is looking to hire one person to help plan the expedition, and two more to work as a mechanic and film-maker respectively. The expedition will from Nar'Yan Mar in the Arctic tundra and end at Slimbridge.