My name is Dale Forbes and I work in marketing at Swarovski Optik. As a child – in South Africa – I would always tell grown-ups that I wanted to be a game ranger and ever since then, my life has pretty much revolved around birds and conservation.
I just cannot imagine a life without birds. A degree in Wildlife Science and Zoology, followed by a thesis on forest vertebrate biogeography, helped give me a solid foundation for my subsequent work in conservation biology. My conservation work started in southern Africa but it was followed by four extraordinary years in Central America.
Moving to The Tyrol was a dramatic change from the muggy jungles and aquamarine waters I was used to, but I soon fell in love with the towering peaks and stark grasslands of the high-alpine zone (Think Snowfinches and Wallcreepers!).
My relationship with Swarovski Optik started as a student – who had saved for years to buy his first car – and then spent all of that money on a pair of Swarovski binoculars. I had to ride my bicycle for a few more years and work longer night shifts as a result, but it was well worth it.
Swarovski Optik is a family company that thinks long term. And I really like that. From the environmental sustainability of the production processes and social orientation of the company, all the way to the long-term support of worthwhile conservation projects, there is so much that makes me want to tell people how much I love my job.
Last year, I got to visit the wide open steppes of Kazakhstan – vast open landscapes of intense nothingness. The emptiness was extreme, but at the same time filled with the sound of millions of Black and Sky Larks chorusing to the glory of the spring. But the trip was not just about experiencing the power of the landscape and quenching our birding thirst, it was also about visiting the Sociable Lapwing project team to give them our support and trying to see some of the lapwings on their breeding grounds while we were there.
Maxim Koshkin and his team at ACBK were incredibly cautious with the birds, keeping us at a good distance as they were breeding at the time. And strangely enough, I think that this distant observation made the experience all the more powerful: we were close enough to appreciate their beauty, but distant enough to keep it something of a beautiful enigma in the mirage. The tulips, the marmots, the larks and the rich blue sky – all united to create an intense experience where I was at one with the great interconnected web of biodiversity.
I am proud to be a part of a long-term project to help save the Sociable Lapwing and act as a BirdLife Species Champion. You too can help out by donating directly to the project, here.