Magazine article Geographical

Amazon Adventure: A-Level Student Oliver Russell Recounts His Incredible Expedition into the Amazon Rainforest on a Conservation Exercise-His Prize for Winning the 2007 Geographical Young Geographer of the Year Competition

Magazine article Geographical

Amazon Adventure: A-Level Student Oliver Russell Recounts His Incredible Expedition into the Amazon Rainforest on a Conservation Exercise-His Prize for Winning the 2007 Geographical Young Geographer of the Year Competition

Article excerpt

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'WE WERE WALKING along the transect when we saw paw prints in the mud. When we got to about 200 metres from the end, there was a jaguar, staring right back at us. It was the most intense, incredible experience of the trip'.

Few people will ever see a big cat in the wild. But, after this breathtaking encounter in the Amazonian rainforest, it's something that 18-year-old Oliver Russell can cross off his 'to do' list.

Oliver was the winner of the 2007 Geographical Young Geographer of

the Year competition. An A-level student at Queen Elizabeth Grammar School in Wakefield, he's studying geography along with maths and physics, and is aiming to take a geography degree at the University of Cambridge. He hopes to enter a career involving conservation, as he's 'more interested in the physical side of geography; the environmental rather than the social aspect', so his prize--a four-week expedition into the Peruvian Amazon with BSES Expeditions--was something of a dream come true.

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But he nearly didn't enter the competition at all: 'I tried to get on a trip to Kilimanjaro last summer but that fell through, so I decided to enter'. It proved to be a profitable decision, and his winning entry was a well-crafted, thoroughly researched essay on the theme of 'Can recycling save the world?', packed with facts, figures and informed opinion.

STUDY TIME

In July, Oliver was one of 32 'young explorers' who flew to Lima before moving on to the Amazonian city of Iquitos, where they acclimatised to the hot, humid conditions. From here, they travelled by boat into the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve, a 2,000-square-kilometre area of wild tropical rainforest at the head of the Amazon River. They spent the next three weeks here, working alongside dedicated researchers and conservationists from the Peruvian University of Amazonian Studies to help preserve the region's unique and threatened biodiversity.

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The young explorers, aged 16-20, were split between the two base camps of Tacsacocha and Cocha Huisto. They swapped camps after nine days, so everyone was involved in all activities. They were a two-day boat trip from the nearest town but were unfazed by their isolation, with the fieldwork keeping them occupied. However, says Oliver, 'most people were craving chocolate' by the end of the month.

At Tacsacocha, Oliver helped to survey fauna along the transects and to research fish and primate numbers. …

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