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'Human Swan' Will Fly With Thousands of Migrating Swans to Study Their Hazards and Decline

Apr 30, 2016 04:00 AM EDT
Bewick's swan
A Bewick's swan comes into land at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust in 2009 in Slimbridge, England. Bewick's swans have begun their annual migration from Arctic Russia to the bird sanctuary, but experts have expressed concern at their declining numbers across North Europe.
(Photo : Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

A conservationist is taking swan protection to new heights -- literally. This autumn, Sacha Dench will fly with thousands of migrating Bewick's swans as they take the 4,500-mile (7,242-kilometer) journey from the Russian arctic to the United Kingdom.

Dench, a sportswoman and advocate working with the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, will do the first ever attempt to take on the swans' migration route, in order to study their habits and the hazards that they face in their journey.

Dench's adventure with the birds is called "Flight of the Swans."

To act as her wings, this brave "human swan" will use a paramotor, or a parachute wing with a small propeller engine, according to BBC.

She will be traveling with the swans through 11 countries, where some areas do not have roads and are completely new and unvisited territories, such as the desolate and vast Arctic tundras with extreme weather conditions and polar bears.

The report said Dench, a former free-diving champion, will rely on good weather forecast and nomadic reindeer breeders, farmers and hunters for shelter.

Dench will be broadcasting her journey in real time through the latest camera technology and satellite communication, as per

The conservationist has been studying the Bewick's swans for more than 50 years. This courageous journey is an attempt to discover the reasons behind the birds' decline in numbers, which plummeted in the past 20 years.

The Bewick's swan is Europe's smallest swan. At present, there are less than 18,000 surviving swans from an estimated 29,000 in 1995. Dench's flight will hopefully shed more light as to why thousands of swans do not make it through the entire journey.

Celebrities such as Dame Judi Dench, who plays the formidable "M" in the "James Bond" films and turned out to be Sacha's relative, and Sir David Attenborough, a famous naturalist, expressed support for this remarkable flight.

Attenborough has called the expedition as "marvellously imaginative and adventurous."

If she is successful, Dench will be the first woman to cross the English Channel by paramotor.

People from all over the world can find out more about the journey and express their support through the Flight of the Swans website.

WWT Flight of the Swans from WWT on Vimeo.

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