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 extinction.
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 4,500km 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.
Regional law firm, Rix & Kay Solicitors with offices in Brighton and across Sussex and Kent, have been chosen to support the expedition by providing dedicated legal support to Sacha Dench and her team as they make the challenging trek across Europe.
Sacha Dench commented,
“WWT is incredibly grateful to the many people and organisations that have already generously supported Flight of the Swans. It’s wonderful is that we work with businesses and charities and individuals that have a genuine interest in the conservation and environmental issues we’re trying to address. We thank Rix and Kay for their terrific contribution.”
Bruce Hayter, Rix & Kay’s Managing Partner said:
“We are immensely proud to have been asked to support WWT and Sacha Dench’s inspired adventure. The Flight of the Swans is a truly unique project with the potential to do so much to protect the future of the iconic Bewick’s Swan.
“We are already working hard to support Sacha Dench and her team by putting in place all the necessary requirements to deal with the many challenges ahead. The logistics of supporting a project of this nature and ensuring the team are protected from a legal perspective is our primary focus. We are delighted to be able to help make this project possible.
“Rix & Kay are well equipped to support the team, having previously supported the Catlin Arctic Survey Expedition, which was backed by the World Wildlife Fund”.
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 20,000 now surviving.
Anyone can find out more about the expedition and sign up to support the Bewick’s swan at www.flightoftheswans.org
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. 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.”
The other Patrons of Flight of the Swans are: Sir Ranulph Fiennes, Sir David Attenborough, Kate Humble, Pen Hadow and Ann Daniels.
Other organisations supporting of Flight of the Swans include Mitsubishi, Paramo clothing, Inmarsat, the Met Office, 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 Baltic Fund for Nature and the Nenetskiy National Nature Reserve in Russia, the Estonian Wetland Society and the Estonian University of Life Sciences in Estonia, the Museum of Natural History and the Nature Conservation Agency in Latvia, the Nature Research Centre and the Lithuanian Ornithological Society and the Baltic Environmental Forum in Lithuania, the Gdansk Ornithological Station and the Polish Society for the Protection of Birds in Poland, NABU in Germany, Aarhus University in Denmark, NIOO and SOVON in the Netherlands, and Natuurpunt in Belgium.
In addition several international bodies are supporting Flight of the Swans including: the Ramsar Convention, the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement (AEWA), The European Federation of Associations for Hunting and Conservation (FACE) and Wetlands International.
Partner and supporter quotes
Sir Ranulph Fiennes said:
“I am pleased that my organisation – the Transglobe Expedition Trust – is supporting the Flight of the Swans and we have awarded a grant of £7,500. This is somewhat more than was asked for and this is because we felt that Flight of the Swans was especially worthwhile and innovative.”
Sir David Attenborough said:
“This expedition is marvellously imaginative and adventurous, and a fitting project in WWT’s 70th anniversary. Peter Scott did similar in his day and inspired the world. That swans should fly from Russia to come here is surely a kind of parable – we can live in harmony with nature and it’s up to us to do so.”
Kate Humble said:
“I’m proud to be a Vice President of WWT because it is an organisation that combines excellent public engagement with proactive, practical and often bold conservation. The Flight of the Swans expedition encapsulates WWT’s remit – a remarkable and original way of telling the story of the journey of the Bewick’s swans, of learning more about them and passing that knowledge on. This is an enormously brave and exciting undertaking, and one I believe Peter Scott, the founder of WWT, would have thoroughly approved of.”
Pen Hadow, polar explorer, said:
“’Story makers’ as opposed to ‘story tellers’ are of that rare breed who have a powerful ability to act as a rallying point for important issues. It strikes me that this project with Sacha’s creative paramotoring plans are definitely the ‘story makers’ for this important Bewick’s story. This feat of human endurance – an individual paramotoring 7,000 km over some remarkably inhospitable terrain and weather conditions – will mirror the gruelling annual undertaking of the Bewick’s as they leave their breeding grounds in the Arctic Tundra and head for wintering spots in the UK and nearby. The direct communication with communities along the route, and massive media coverage on an international scale, will undoubtedly focus attention and efforts on helping to prevent the decrease in the Bewick’s swan global population.”
Ann Daniels, polar explorer, said:
“This project is truly admirable in both its conception and its ambitions. It is really unique idea and as such I think will draw a great deal of attention to the plight of the Bewick’s. There will no doubt be gruelling moments for Sacha! However, she’s dedicated to the cause and fully committed and I have every confidence that the project will be a great success – both in generating a lot of public attention but also helping the communities along the flyway to better understand the importance of looking after these beautiful and iconic swans.”