Running more than 10 000km for environmental issues close to his heart – with one journey spanning almost the full breadth of Canada – was not enough for Dave Chamberlain.
The athlete and former scuba-diving instructor will now be lending his talents to saving the critically endangered white-winged flufftail in a run from Dullstroom to Johannesburg.
“This species is one of those ‘hidden gems’ with a population found in Mpumalanga, Free State and KwaZulu-Natal – and the next closest group found nearly 4 000km away in Ethiopia. That’s fascinating,” Chamberlain told Daily News this week.
The birds have been found in high altitude wetlands in KZN, including Franklin Vlei, Penny Park, Hebron near Kokstad, Ingula and Murphy’s Rust near Ladysmith, as well as a single record from Mfabeni in the St Lucia area.
Chamberlain’s new six-day, 281km adventure starts on February 1. He will cover on average about 50km a day, pulling a trailer containing his food supplies. He will use the trailer as a makeshift shelter at night.
The Pretoria man said environmental issues were something he was passionate about, having spent considerable time under water in various oceans around the world.
“We must look after what we have and do what we can to protect it. Think about what goes into a migration. Some animals travel thousands of kilometres and we take that for granted,” he said.
Four years ago, he accepted a dare from his parents and ran the length of Argentina so that he could catch a boat headed for the Antarctic.
He made it, and the run cemented his love of the activity.
Since then he has completed two further projects in aid of nature conservation: a 2 700km run from Walvis Bay to Port Elizabeth in aid of the African Penguin, as well as a 7 800km, five-month epic covering the breadth of Canada to raise awareness for the plight of the polar bear, all while pushing his food supplies and personal belongings in a pram.
From coast to coast, the country spans over 9 000km, much of it inaccessible.
His next project, a year-long attempt to run from Vladivostok to Reykjavik across Russia and Europe, will aim to raise awareness of wetlands and migratory birds.
Birdlife South Africa, Eskom, Rand Water, Sandton City and other partners banded together to sponsor the inaugural Flufftail Festival, from February 3-8, which includes the run.
Birdlife said in a press release that ornithologists were of the opinion that there were fewer than 250 adult white-winged flufftails remaining in the wild and that the South African population was estimated to number less than 50 birds.
The birds are threatened by habitat degradation and destruction including pollution from industrial and mining effluent, domestic and commercial sewage, agricultural run-off and litter.