Moving Out : Stanley Johnson
Published in The Sun 1st July 2010
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A FEW months ago I flew by hot-air balloon over vast herds of migrating wildlife.
They were travelling from Tanzania's Serengeti National Park into Kenya's Masai Mara game reserve.
The sight was unbelievable, unforgettable. As far as the eye could see the plains were black with animals.
One and a half million wildebeest, half a million zebra, another half a million topis, elands and Thomson's gazelles.
This truly is one of the world's great migrations, perhaps the greatest wildlife spectacle on earth.
For the last five years I have been researching a new book, Survival: Saving Endangered Migratory Species.
It is a book about the battle to save those species which travel hundreds, or sometimes thousands, of miles to survive, and the problems they face.
I have been privileged during my lifetime to have visited the most far-flung corners of the globe, but this has been one of the most exciting projects I have ever undertaken.
One day, in Mexico's Sea Of Cortez, I saw at least 20 blue whales - thought to be the largest of all the creatures that have ever lived on this planet, a species which for decades has been on the edge of extinction.
Last month, on Espanola Island in the Galapagos, I was able to observe at close quarters colonies of waved albatross.
I once spent a week with the environmental charity Earthwatch, pacing up and down a Costa Rican beach to protect the newly laid eggs of the mighty leatherback turtle.
Once there were 90,000 mating female leatherbacks in the Pacific.
Quite a swimmer ... Green Turtle migrates 1,243 miles from Ascension Island to Brazil
Today there are fewer than 5,000. Because many of them move from country to country, international action is often essential.
Since January 2007 I have been honoured to be an ambassador for the UN Environment Programme's Convention On Migratory Species (CMS).
Under the auspices of the CMS, more than two dozen international treaties and other instruments have been negotiated to protect migratory species, from elephants to antelopes, gorillas to whales.
The challenges that remain are great. Treaties have to be implemented, as well as signed. New threats arise constantly.
As I write, plans are afoot to drive a road right through the heart of the Serengeti, with untold consequences for migrating wildlife.
Last week, the international moratorium on commercial whaling came close to unravelling.
The consequences for wildlife of the horrendous oil spill in the Gulf Of Mexico have still to be assessed.
It is my sincere hope that this book may play its part in helping create greater public awareness of the astonishing treasure represented by migratory species and of the threats which they face.
I also hope it may inspire decision-makers, both in the UK and elsewhere, even at this time of budgetary stringency, to press for more effective action to protect some of nature's most precious resources.
Survival: Saving Endangered Migratory Species, by Stanley Johnson and Robert Vagg (Stacey International, £29.95) is out now. All the authors' royalties are being donated to the CMS for projects to protect endangered species.
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