Convention on Migratory Species – COP13 Gandhinagar, India 17 February 2020
Sacha Dench was awarded a major accolade by the United Nations at an award ceremony where she was appointed UN Ambassador for Migratory Species
Sacha is a pioneering conservationist, champion sportswoman and record-breaking adventurer, famously named the “Human Swan” for her paramotor journey following the Bewicks swan migration from the Russian Arctic to the UK – has been applauded for her creative and daring approach to highlighting the issues surrounding the plight, and tragic decline of many migratory species.
Sacha joined two other appointees – conservationist Ian Redmond OBE and award-winning Bolywood actor and expert equestrian Randeep Hooda – all three in recognition of their achievements in raising awareness of threatened migratory species and their habitats.
With a 20-year track record as a conservationist and motivational speaker, Sacha is the co-founder and CEO of “Conservation without Borders”, a charity that supports leading conservationists and scientists by creating media, public and political support for their work.
Sacha’s flagship project was a courageous three-month expedition called the “Flight of the Swans” that brought international attention to the conservation status of the Bewick’s Swan. She flew a paramotor solo over 7,000 km across eleven countries from the arctic region in Russia to the United Kingdom. The Bewick’s Swan is a European endangered migratory bird that is subject of an International Single Species Action Plan developed under the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement.The expedition engaged millions of people along the flyway, gaining public interest and significant media attention.
Sacha plans to replicate the success of the “Flight of the Swans” with a new expedition called the “Flight of the Osprey” that aims to highlight the threats faced by migrating Osprey and other wildlife. This paramotor expedition will follow the Osprey’s western flyway from the UK, across the Mediterranean Sea and finishing in Ghana. This mission will provide a unique bird’s-eye-view of the Osprey’s migratory route whilst collecting vital data on the challenges faced along the way. As a champion freediver Sacha will also investigate the underwater world so important to the fish-eating ospreys, including sampling for pollutants and plastics at critical sites.
The UN representative commented: “Sacha has already proven her ability to reach international audiences to raise awareness and mobilise support of the threats facing migratory birds and the need to conserve them.
We believe that she will act as an outstanding CMS ambassador, and prove to be a highly effective communicator – engaging and inspiring millions of people around the world.”
In her new role Sacha will work with the Vulture MSAP coordination team and others whilst in India at CMS COP13, to develop a ‘Conservation without Borders’ project that can help bring the vulture crisis to life and help conservationists working on different threats in different parts of the world, to drive change. Over the next three years, Sacha and her team at Conservation without Borders will work closely with CMS to identify priority issues and migratory routes.
Sacha said: “Many vulture species will actively fly with a paraglider, sharing thermals. It is amazing to be so close to these magnificent creatures and get a glimpse into their world of moving air and thermals that is invisible to us from the ground. Flying with them in key areas could also give us unique and engaging insights into our world below from their point of view – from why powerlines and turbines are a problem in certain areas and what we could do about it, to understanding their preferred routes and roosting sites, and what senses they might be using to identify food, and why they are subject to poisoning. And on their long journeys, what other threats might they face that scientists might not yet have seen from the ground”
“My approach is to work with scientists and other experts already working in the field, to identify the target audiences – which might be individuals or whole communities – and how they can help. I then look at the species involved and the people working with them, to find the most powerful stories we could tell to inspire wonder and curiosity amongst those target audiences, so they want to help. As with the swans, the challenge might be figuring out the best ways to tell those stories – whether that is through the media, meetings, film showings, or in some cases dropping out of the sky with just a paraglider and a story to share. We will also be working with international broadcasters including news networks, to promote the importance of migratory species to all of us. We will aim to find a way for those powerful stories to reach a mass global audience and promote the importance of CMS in driving global collaborations.”