“Roadkill Stew” as austerity measures hit the project

“Better than horsemeat no doubt, and with a distinctive gamey flavour – but not half dry and tendonous!” That’s is our culinary assessment of Darwin’s Nothura, a grouse-like species of fowl, native to Argentina.

We don’t tend to eat the subjects of our Megatransect wildlife surveys! But today as we ran the long asphalt road we chanced upon the fresh body of a hit-and-run roadkill incident intact, superficially at least, lying by the verge. Eyes still bright but tragically dead. We at first inspected the plumage to identify the poor soul, then we thought why not make something of this unfortunate incident. At least it’s about as local as you can get, and leaving carrion on the road leads to peril for any other birds of prey seeking to retrieve his protein from the dangerous highway. Furthermore, we got to thinking, if our 4000 calorie requirement is to be filled by some other form of farmed food, then surely the environmental impact will be higher. They have a word here in South America, “approvechero”, or he who seeks to make the most of a situation. . .


We peeled back his thin skin and mottled plumes, so beautifully overlaid and delicately patterned – a truly beautiful bird alive. Once the simple act of removing his skin is complete, his transformation into “ingredient” is rapidly achieved.

Dinner loaded onto the trailer, life after life

Nothing feels odd about cooking the roadkill flesh amongst garlic, onions and olive oil. In fact he is prized here and unfortunately is hunted relentlessly, although seems to be standing up to the pressure better than others in the Tinamou family close to extinction. We added other vegetables and cooked on our little stove for some minutes before each taking a try, simultaneously. Hmmm, ok, but really dry. Blame the chef perhaps.


But at least that’s one part of the meal for free. Which is good because we are in trouble with money. Unfortunately the last few weeks having been living under the cloud of our own recession as we are coming to the realisation that the project is in trouble financially. Why? A multitude of factors I suppose – Argentina in which we have been running for the last 4 months has been suffering from hyper-inflation of 25%p.a. so in a year our currency has been slashed in value, making everything seem expensive. Added to which we are staying in more paid accommodation than planned due to the tough conditions in the heat on the road – every six or seven days we just need a break from our roadside hammocks, to sleep, wash and recharge our batteries (the sun only provides the charge for the laptop battery, it drains ours!). We had planned a stop every 14 days.


blissful end to the 20-mile day, but a bit gritty . . .

And then there is the fact that there was always a funding gap that we hoped we could fill en-route but that sadly hasn’t happened. We started without 100%, but felt that we should proceed regardless as we had work to do, articles to write, schools to visit and 5000 miles to run. With many kit sponsors and our fabulous Grant organisations entrusting the project goals with us we took our first icy, slippery steps over 7 months ago. And so, I suppose inevitably, we have run into a brick wall.


By these rules, then, the natural world should be paying for our advocacy but it has no voice, never mind wallet

The impact has been two-fold. First it consumes time on the run, worrying us as we scratch our heads furiously to find an angle to lure the golden sponsor. It consumes our time when in towns, too, which could be put to much better use, and means our tragically slow internet bandwidth is spent searching for a company we can form a good relationship with from afar. Secondly it frustrates us. Times are hard everywhere we are told, but why then are the FTSE and Dow Jones reaching record highs whilst charities, filling the void created by our financial system, struggling with a reduction of 25-30% in their donations? I studied Economics, so I know the answer. Our sounding board is the woodland and hillside that surrounds us; we lose perspective if we are not careful. By these rules, then, the natural world should be paying for our advocacy but it has no voice, never mind wallet.


But we are two in our team and that helps one or the other regain focus, we set ourselves this challenge we remind ourselves, nobody asked us to do it. Man-up and get running, this is a unique challenge, and we do love this opportunity to put our bodies to the test whilst raising awareness of these wild places!!

Environmental education, on the run . . . !

So running continues in the meantime, relentless, and in the short term at least we are looking for innovative ways to cut costs even harder and bring in sponsors to help us pay the bills, without cannibalising our charity donations. We know the project is a part of the vital work needed here and we’ll find a way to cover its small purse. Meanwhile, on the plus side, at least when we bite into our roadkill stew after another day man-hauling the trailer we can say with 100% confidence there is no chemically-loaded old nag minced into it . . . !