Wednesday, 26 April 2017

ANNOUNCEMENT: Search for the Pink-Headed Duck expedition Myanmar 2017

Finally, after keeping tight-lipped for over a year, except to a few close family and friends, I can now announce that Pilar Bueno and I will be joining, naturalist and explorer Richard Thorn and internationally acclaimed author, painter, collector and naturalist Errol Fuller on an expedition to Myanmar (Burma) in search of the critically endangered Pink-Headed Duck - Rhodonessa caryophyllacea

Pilar and I will be photographers, naturalists and advisors on the trip.

Richard Thorn has conducted single man searches every year for this elusive and enigmatic bird since 2009. His dedication and focus into either re-discovering or explaining the extinction of this iconic S.E. Asian duck recalls like the great naturalist and explorers of old.

Some have said that this is a 'fools mission' and that the bird has long since disappeared. Personally, like Richard and Errol, I do not believe this to be the case. In fact we are very confident that because of the inaccessibility to the environments of Burma (Myanmar) for decades, caused by the internal political and religious conflicts, that somewhere in remote ponds, lakes, rivers or streams remains a small remnant population, hanging on, unseen.

Myanmar still offers large areas of unexplored habitats, the same habitats where this always rare and shy bird historically lived. Richard, in recent visits to certain areas, has gathered new information and reliable sighting from local fisherman and villagers. These locals had nothing to gain by identifying the bird, no money changed hands, as eye-witness anecdotal evidence goes it doesn't get any better. The villagers have no idea that this bird is so important and rare. In fact, they must consider us quite strange spending time and money looking for a bird, ha ha they might be right.

The witnesses have picked out the species from books on birds of S.E. Asia without prompting, admittingly stating that it is very rare and only very occasionally seen. These sightings offer a glimpse and a heart beat to the continued survival of this species. To read about Richard's exploration to date please check out his superb blog: Pink-Headed Duck

Our plan is to move into new areas, interview local people and identify appropriate habitats for observation and study with the help of modern technology such as camera traps and hopefully a drone or two if we can wrangle permission from the government agencies involved.

Our exploration is going to be far from easy. Not only are we battling against the stifling heat and humidity but also dangers from the flora and fauna. Myanmar has large cats, bears and wild Elephant, not forgetting the snakes and bugs, our trials will be many but not exactly new to us either, it's what I live for. The challenges of the travel to remote areas loaded with belonging and equipment are often overlooked when seen through the screen of our TVs; this I find sometimes the hardest part of this type of journey but it goes with the job. It's time to get fit again!

We are very excited to announce that in recent weeks our expedition was approved as part of a new scientific initiative to search for 25 missing species. We will most likely be the first team in the field as part of this project by Global Wildlife Conservation (GWC), an organisation that is working with local partners to send scientific expeditions to some of the most remote and uncharted places on Earth. 

The initiative has narrowed the search to focus on 25 species. GWC compiled the list with the help of more than 100 specialist groups under the Species Survival Commission at the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The list of species was selected from a total of more than 1,200 species that are considered lost across more than 160 countries. Each of the species on the final list has not been seen prior to 2007. Some may even be extinct.

As a boy, in my free time away from school I spent my days daydreaming of exploring remote habitats of the World and even re-discovering lost species. The two species that stood out for me were the legendary Ivory-billed Woodpecker and the Pink-headed Duck.

I have fulfilled many of my dreams already. But this expedition is a culmination of hard work (especially by Richard), dedication, some luck but most of all following a belief that all things are possible and we can manifest our own destiny. 

Not only will we have a chance to make history if this species is rediscovered by us, we'll also complete the story of Richard Thorns quest, which he richly deserves full credit for. I hope I can help provide the photographic evidence required to protect not only the future of this species but also the environments and habitats required for this bird to live along with all the other biodiversity inhabiting this area of the World. This is of the utmost importance to us.

Our trip will also open the door of opportunity to hopefully discover new species, unknown to science. There is so much habitat unseen by the eyes of science let alone a camera. This is where Pilar and I and our cameras will come in. 

As a naturalist, when in the field, I photograph everything for reference and research purposes at a later date when in the comfort of my home, my library and of course the internet. What "beasties" await us I can only imagine but at the moment my dreams are duck shaped and pink.

I hope to be broadcasting regular video blog updates during our journey with the hope that we'll create an engaged and interested audience to our adventures.

Pilar and I, after the Myanmar part of the expedition has finished, will continue our search and travels into N.E. India, Nagaland and Assam. We then plan to head for remote areas of Northern Thailand. We are planning for at least 3 months on the road gathering data.

At the moment we are self funded but with some sponsorship being negotiated as I write. 
But we are also looking for further sponsorship from other sources, not only financial but also equipment. If anyone reading this can help in any way to achieve fully our ambitions please contact us. You would be fully acknowledged for your help in the books and projects that will follow and have our eternal gratitude.

We're trying to make history and that history is duck shaped and pink.

Contact: Pink-Headed Duck Project 2017

#Nikon #Bushnall #Cameratraps #ExtinctSpecies #CriticallyEndangeredSpecies #PinkHeadedDuck #Expedition #Myanmar2017 #MyanmarBirds

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