Journey of a Lifetime with British Geographer Will Millard
Packrafting through the heart of the African ‘Peace Park’ on a Journey of a Lifetime
British geographer Will Millard will next week (April 9) be heading to the jungles of Sierra Leone and Liberia to make a first descent of the remote Moro and Mano rivers. As the recipient of the Journey of a Lifetime Award, awarded by the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) in partnership with BBC Radio 4, Will is hoping to raise awareness of this critically endangered forest environment and its remarkable people, with a BBC Radio 4 broadcast of his journey scheduled for this autumn.
The journey will see Will pack-raft 100 miles down the remote Mano and Moro River, through the heart of the highly anticipated ‘Peace Park’, meeting the local people, ecologists and unique wildlife on an extraordinary journey at the frontline of African conservation.
The visit coincides with the construction of one of the largest and most ecologically important national parks in West Africa, as Sierra Leone and Liberia seek to join Gola National Park with Lofa and Foya. The move comes after the countries celebrate ten years of peace. Funded by the European Union, the project will form an unbroken 300,000 hectare national park in what could be an iconic symbol of peace and unity, as well as a vital lifeline to the unique wildlife of West Africa.
Commenting ahead of his journey, Will said: “I will be travelling deep into the fragile Upper Guinean belt ecosystem, home to some of the most endangered species on the planet including pygmy hippos, chimps and forest elephants, and under major threat from logging and mining.
“It will be fascinating to live in the forest meeting the policy makers, ecologists and local people responsible for establishing conservation initiatives in the region including: ex-hunters who have adapted their animal calling skills to directly benefit wildlife research and joining the patrols of bush rangers who guard the international borders from illegal loggers and diamond miners.” The Society’s Journey of a Lifetime Award in partnership with BBC Radio 4, running since 2001, offers people the chance to make a ‘journey of a lifetime’ and to tell the world about it in a memorable piece of radio documentary-making. The award recipient receives training in radio broadcasting from the BBC and records their experiences for a BBC Radio 4 documentary.
Will added: “More than 70% of the Upper Guinean forest belt has disappeared in the last 50 years. In a region synonymous with a brutal conflict fuelled by blood diamonds it may seem an unlikely stronghold for such a rich habitat. Yet the ten-year war may have offered something of a salvation for the forest and its animals, discouraging mass scale commercial exploitation in the region for decades. I am really looking forward to meeting the local people that have lived and endured in this remarkable region.”
Will’s journey can followed on the Downstream Chimp community on Facebook, on Twitter @MillardWill or his blog at downstreamchimp.wordpress.com/
For further details about the Journey of a Lifetime Award visit:www.rgs.org/journeyofalifetime