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Statement by Ms. Sacha Dench on World Migratory Bird Day 2020

Sacha Dench - CMS Ambadassor

Ms. Sacha Dench
CMS Ambassador for Migratory Species

Birds connect the world – perspectives from a ‘human swan’

When wild birds fly at your wingtip, or circle to altitude with you in a thermal, it’s a moment you will never forget. Flying a whole migration with them cemented not only my connection with birds, but my resolve to help those working to save them.

The art of getting inside a bird’s head was first explained to me by Nige Jarrett at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, the brains behind conservation breeding of many migratory species. It had sounded marvellous but a bit mad at the time. I now think it is genius on many fronts. Every time I tell stories of fantastic journeys and the challenges of migration through a bird’s eyes, whether it is to school kids or politicians, their eyes and imaginations light up…and they want to know more. This is a powerful and personal way to start conversations about how we tackle climate change and the biodiversity crisis.

From the air, a bird’s-eye-view, there are things you cannot help but see. Polluting run-off after rain, the absence of wetlands around intensive agriculture, the bubbles coming from pools in the Arctic, a sign of the permafrost thawing... Whilst I am aware of the climate and biodiversity crises as facts, to see these from above, on a setting of a finite planet, makes them very real. But whilst our impacts are clearer, they also look a bit smaller, and easier to solve.

The challenges of migratory bird conservation are immense – not only are the animals moving, but the world around them is changing faster and faster. Those battling to conserve them, against these odds, are an inspiration of determination and creativity, but even more inspiring are the powerful alliances they form. The necessity of collaboration with other researchers along a flyway, seems to forge incredible friendships that span the globe, see no borders, and are so strong they weather decades and political storms with dexterity.

My focus as ambassador and with ‘Conservation without Borders, is to make these connections reach out and include a wider audience. I was amazed every day of my migration from the Russian Arctic to the UK, at the things people were prepared to do to help, if only I asked. Sadly, as conservationists it seems we don’t ask enough. Too many times I heard ‘why has no one spoken to us about it before!’, and people were moved to tears because I had gone out of my way to find and speak to them directly, as no one ever had. These are signs that there are more people that would help, if only we asked.

So, I’m going to celebrate World Migratory Bird Day by writing my book on migration and recording interviews with conservationists with a powerful story to tell and happy to ask for help. If you want to contribute or nominate someone, email [email protected] and I will send more information.

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