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University of Sussex biologist stands up for the Amazon

Map showing route for Mika Peck's paddle board expedition down the Amazon River in July 2013

Mika Peck paddle boarding in Brazil

Mika Peck preparing for a paddle board training session on Shoreham beach

A night monkey - one of the species found in the Amazon region. Image and home page image © Angélica Martínez Alfonso

University of Sussex conservation biologist Dr Mika Peck will be standing up for the wildlife and people of the Amazon Basin when he heads an international team on a 1300km paddle down the mighty Amazon River in July.

The aim of the mission – the first descent of the Amazon River using inflatable Stand Up Paddle boards (SUPs) – is to raise funds for rainforest conservation projects while increasing awareness of the challenges facing the people and wildlife of the Amazon region.

A web site has been set up to share news about the adventure and its achievements. People will be able to donate cash through the web site that will benefit three local organisations in the Amazon region by:

  • Purchasing a fibreglass Eco-Canoe made by the Cofán, one of the oldest surviving indigenous groups in Ecuador, which will be used by conservationists to help curb illegal wildlife trade along the Amazon.
  • Using additional donated funds to support Maikuchiga, a local NGO that rescues and rehabilitates illegally-traded primates while providing local employment and environmental education. Maikuchiga’s headquarters recently suffered significant damage following heavy floods.
  • By giving the Eco-Canoe to wildlife organisation Entropika, which organises conservation projects with the cooperation of local indigenous people.

The seven expedition members, who are scientists and conservationists, will be paying their own expenses, but funds will also be used to cover the costs of their guide, indigenous leader Lucho "el loco" Sinarahua, who will accompany the team on the journey.

The surf boards used by the team are being supplied by Devon-based Red Paddle Company, an ethical manufacturer of boards.

In escorting the new boat, Dr Peck and his team will be following in the wake of legendary figures such as the Spanish explorer Francisco de Orellana who, lured by the promise of gold and spices, completed the first known navigation of the Amazon.

The team will take a month to complete the trip, travelling 80km a day and encountering numerous challenges along the way before reaching their destination – Amacayacu National Park in the south of the Colombian Amazon and on the Brazilian border, where Enotropika is based.

Dr Peck will be keeping a blog of the team’s adventures as they paddle along the river through Ecuador, Peru and Colombia to the border with Brazil.

Dr Peck says: “The Amazon is a wonder of the world that shows off nature in all its glory. The beauty of descending it using paddle boards means that we can get up close and personal with the river’s natural treasures, such as river dolphins, tapirs, birdlife and primates.

“We’ll be camping by night on the river bank or staying with indigenous communities. At the end of the trip the paddle boards will be used to survey wildlife in the Amazon's flooded forests – in particular night monkeys – to determine impacts to wild populations from illegal trade.”

To get into training for the epic voyage, Dr Peck has been paddling away in the sea off Shoreham and along the River Arun in Sussex, although according to Dr Peck, “the Arun probably has more teashops than the Amazon”.

While not expecting to encounter the more “glamorous” hazards of anacondas, piranhas and alligators during their river trek, the team will have to beware of dehydration, sunburn and the increased risk of infection through open wounds.

Notes for Editors

To find out more about Stand Up for The Amazon and to donate, visit http://www.entropika.org/en/supamazon.html and keep up to date with Mika Peck’s training and the actual expedition on his blog at http://supamazon.blogspot.co.uk/

Dr Mika Peck is a conservation biologist in the School of Life Sciences at the University of Sussex. His research interests include ecological process and environmental change, identification of conservation priorities using GIS, modelling and remote sensing, biogeography, genetics, tropical rainforests, molecular ecology and sustainable development.

In 2005 he developed the Darwin Initiative-funded project called PRIMENET – a large international project in the Choco-Andean region of NW Ecuador to develop a sustainable network for conservation of primates and habitat.

The project continues using the concept of citizen science funded by the Earthwatch Institute under the ‘Climate change, canopies and wildlife’ project.

His current work includes conservation of endangered mammals of NW Ecuador, investigating hunting of primates in Ecuador and Colombia and modelling impacts of proposed oil developments in the Amazon, and the development of sustainable livelihoods in Papua New Guinea.

Interview and photo opportunity: Dr Peck will be taking part in a Stand Up Paddle Board Demo day at Lagoon Watersports, Hove, on Sunday 19 May 2013, from 10am. The event will offer Stand Up Paddle Board taster sessions for the public, a fleet of boards for customers to try from Board manufacturers Starboard, Fanatic and Red Paddle, an ‘ON MASS’ paddle from Hove Lagoon to Brighton (weather dependent). Entry for the ‘ON MASS’ paddle will cost £10 and all funds will go to the Amazon charities. There will also be raffle prizes and a barbecue on the day.

To arrange filming/interviews for Mika at the Hove paddle event or elsewhere, please contact the University of Sussex press office.

University of Sussex Press office contacts: Maggie Clune and Jacqui Bealing. Tel: 01273 678 888. Email: press@sussex.ac.uk

View press releases online at: http://www.sussex.ac.uk/newsandevents/

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Last updated: Thursday, 25 April 2013