The ‘Guardians of the River’ podcast takes a look at one of the last untouched parts of our planet

Science August 20, 2021
Guardians of the River podcast art
Listen to ‘Guardians of the River’

The Okavango Delta and the rivers that feed into it are the beating heart of water for three countries in southern Africa. It is pristine, untouched by the damaging effects of humans. A lifesource for thousands of elephants, birds, hippos and humans. But the Okavango water system is not widely understood. Sometimes, the water does not fill the Delta, and no one knows why. It is a region of mysteries.

What is known about the Okavango is that when it does not fill with water, it is a death sentence for the wildlife it nourishes. For centuries, the water would come and go, desert taking its place before a great flood would refill the Delta. But in the past 10 years, the Okavango water system has been acting erratically, not providing a substantial source of water, leaving a trail of carcasses in its wake.

And scientists are determined to find out why. A collaboration of National Geographic, the Wild Bird Trust and House of Pod, “Guardians of the River” is hosted by Kerllan Costa, an Angolan biologist who started working in the region in 2016 under Dr. Steve Boyce. Boyce is a South African zoologist who has been studying the Okavango’s wildlife in order to better understand the region. He has been determined to find out where the delta originates, where it ends, and how we can protect it. That’s why he decided to follow the Okavango; starting at its source and traveling all the way to the Delta. A 1,500 km journey with a team from Angola, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.

Over time, Costa and Boyce realized that science will not be the key to understanding the water system. But instead, the myths, legends, and magic of the indigenous people who surround it. In “Guardians of the River,” you will hear about the people and the entities that have guarded the Okavango Delta. You will learn the Angolan legends that have persevered through decades of war. You will hear about the people of Tempué who have guarded the rivers and lakes of the Okavango. There are ghost elephants, Angolan traditions, and hippo hunts.

The guardians are tasked with protecting the pristine Okavango waterways from threats both natural and manmade: droughts, wildfires, habitat destruction, industrial development, overhunting and charcoal development. They have battled the effects of colonialism, war, and the displacement of indigenous Africans. “Guardians of the River” is a look at one of the last untouched parts of our planet. It asks, is there any place on Earth that we can save from ourselves? Will the Okavango Delta be it?

The winner of Best Narrative Nonfiction Podcast at the Tribeca Film Festival, “Guardians of the River” is filled with legends and folktales, field interviews with the scientists working to preserve the Delta, and incredibly immersive sound design. A blend of science, history, folklore, and culture, this podcast follows what happens when worlds collide, clash, and find common ground protecting our planet.

Listen to the story of the “Guardians of the River”.

Listen to ‘Guardians of the River’

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