'I’m humbled by the support that Flight of the Swans has already gained. People all across Europe and Russia are using this expedition as a lever to improve things for the swans, which is all I could have hoped for. Each winter, I’m fortunate enough that a small flock of a couple of hundred Bewick’s swans returns to my workplace – WWT’s Slimbridge Wetland Centre in Gloucestershire, UK. To get there they need safe passage all the way from the northernmost wilds of Russia, and for the last two decades fewer and fewer have made it. It’s crucial that we act now before it’s too late.' - Sacha Dench, WWT
British film stars lead support for first ever lone female expedition to save Europe's smallest swans
Dame Judi Dench, Sir Ranulph Fiennes and Sir David Attenborough head a list of hundreds of businesses, charities and individual supporters throughout Europe and Russia who are getting behind a unique expedition to save Europe’s smallest swan from disappearing.
Flight of the Swans will be the first ever attempt to follow the migration of the Bewick’s swan from the air. Setting off this September, Sacha Dench of the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) will fly a paramotor from the Bewick’s swans’ breeding grounds in arctic Russia 7,500km across 11 countries before finishing at the swans’ final destination in the UK.
The paramotor is simply a wing of fabric, from which Sacha will dangle with a propeller strapped to her back. Flying at the same speed and height as the swans, she will experience the wonders and dangers the swans face including heavy storms, sea crossings and extreme cold. She will share their view with the world in real time using the latest digital camera technology and satellite communication.
Along the way, Sacha and her support team will meet with the communities that live along the swans’ flight path, including reindeer herders, farmers and hunters, and investigate why the number of Bewick’s swans in Europe has almost halved in the last twenty years with less than 18,000 now surviving.
Sacha Dench said: “I’m humbled by the support that Flight of the Swans has already gained. People all across Europe and Russia are using this expedition as a lever to improve things for the swans, which is all I could have hoped for. Each winter, I’m fortunate enough that a small flock of a couple of hundred Bewick’s swans returns to my workplace – WWT’s Slimbridge Wetland Centre in Gloucestershire, UK. To get there they need safe passage all the way from the northernmost wilds of Russia, and for the last two decades fewer and fewer have made it. It’s crucial that we act now before it’s too late.”
Sacha Dench contacted Dame Judi Dench, who played M in the James Bond films, after a family member found out that they were related. Dame Judi said: “Flight of the Swans is absolutely fascinating, full of adventure and passion. I’m proud to support it. We need to work together if we’re to help these beautiful birds, and I am looking forward to following the expedition”
The other Patrons of Flight of the Swans are: Kate Humble, Pen Hadow and Ann Daniels.
Companies and organisations lending support to Flight of the Swans include Mitsubishi, Rix and Kay Solicitors, Páramo Directional Clothing, Inmarsat, Team Bootcamp, Lazarus Training, Fresh Breeze Paramotors and Over Farm Microlights. Flight of the Swans is being supported by conservation and education organisations in each country that the swans pass through: the Nenetskiy National Nature Reserve, the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Baltic Fund for Nature in Russia, the Estonian Ornithological Society, Tartu Environmental Education Centre, the Estonian University of Life Sciences in Estonia, the Museum of Natural History and the Nature Conservation Agency in Latvia, Birdlife Lithuania, the Nature Research Centre and the Lithuanian Ornithological Society and the Baltic Environmental Forum in Lithuania, the Gdansk Ornithological Station, Biebrza National Park, University of Łódzki, Polish Birds, and the Polish Society for the Protection of Birds in Poland, OAG - Ornithologische Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Schleswig-Holstein und Hamburg e.V. and Nature And Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU) Germany, Vadehavet Wetland Centre in Denmark, Nederlands Instituut voor Ecologie (NIOO-KNAW), Lauwersmeer Visitor Centre Staatsbosbeheer and Dutch Forestry and Nature Agency in the Netherlands, and Province of West Flanders i.a.w. Agency for Nature and Forest Management (Het Zwin nature reserve) in Belgium.
They are organising events to coincide with Sacha’s arrival. These meetings and workshops will help progress swan conservation throughout the swans’ range. In addition several international bodies are supporting Flight of the Swans including: the Ramsar Convention, the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement (AEWA) and Wetlands International.
Sacha Dench continued: “WWT is incredibly grateful to the many people and organisations that have already generously supported Flight of the Swans. It’s wonderful to work with businesses, charities and individuals that have a genuine interest in the conservation and environmental issues we’re trying to address. We thank them for their terrific contribution.”
Anyone can find out more about the expedition and sign up to support the Bewick’s swan at www.flightoftheswans.org
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