Press Release

Guardians of the River Winner of First-ever Tribeca Film Festival Podcast Award

"Guardians of the River" podcast, a collaboration of National Geographic, the Wild Bird Trust and House of Pod, chosen as the winner of the Tribeca Film Festival's first-ever podcast awards.

June 18, 2021 — Yesterday the Tribeca Film Festival announced the winners of its first-ever podcast awards and named “Guardians of the River” this year’s winner for Narrative Non-fiction Podcast.

From creator and National Geographic Explorer Catherine de Medici Jaffee, in collaboration with the National Geographic Society, the Wild Bird Trust and House of Pod, “Guardians of the River” follows the National Geographic Okavango Wilderness Project team as they journey along the Okavango River Basin that spans Angola, Namibia and Botswana on a mission to protect this near pristine landscape from increasing threats.

The podcast was selected from among twelve curated titles and new episodes are available to stream on The Wild Bird Trust’s website or from other major audio streaming services.

In response to yesterday’s announcement the team behind the podcast issued the following statements:

Cat Jaffee, Creator of “Guardians of the River” and National Geographic Explorer, said:

"A year ago, I sat in a chair for eight hours at a time receiving chemo through a port in my chest. My team came to meet me in the hospital, taking turns between typing in the cafeteria, and sitting in front of me with a whiteboard mapping out the stories for this series. Our Angola-based producer and narrator, Kerllen Costa, chimed in over Whatsapp and we would tweak words and ideas as a group of people together in the thick of hard things.

It doesn't seem possible nor real that all that work would become something. But it did. And now, here we are, receiving an incredible honor. It's truly because of the patience, grit, and love of the people behind this show. Thank you Tribeca for making this possible, and to the other Tribeca selects, we are in awe of you.”

Kerllen Costa,Guardians of the River narrator andNational Geographic Okavango Wilderness Project Angolan Country Director, said:

“Five years of forest and river exploration and the most intrinsic human connections that Mother Nature channels through its energies, have resulted in the most profound absorption of the knowledge and traditions, religion and beliefs and, above all, the true concept of conservation by the real people who have protected Lisima for many generations. The true Guardians of the River and all elements deeply dependent on that. A year and a half after of capturing the daily social and landscape dynamics of Lisima, and countless days of recording, story writing, editing with the most incredible team, results exactly in what the essence of this work should be: not to just tell the stories of the people, but to document their voices and help advocate for fair opportunities and protection of what is their natural heritage and lifeline.”

Dr. Steve Boyes, National Geographic Fellow and Okavango Wilderness Project team leader, said:

“Making Guardians of the River gave us an opportunity to reflect, align and come together. It became a labour of love for so many. Koketso Mookodiand and Kerllen Costa stepped into leadership positions and further demonstrated that the future of conservation is local.

I was so inspired by Cat Jaffee’s proposal that I stayed up until 2am helping her write her National Geographic Storytelling grant proposal the night before submission. Our film didn't explain exactly what we are actually doing in the Okavango Basin beyond exploration and I wanted Cat to tell that story, and, oh wow, did she!”

Koketso Mookodi,Guardians of the River narrator andNational Geographic Okavango Wilderness ProjectBotswanaCountry Director, said:

"Congratulations to this well-deserving team for their dedication to telling the important stories of conservation.This has been an amazing experience in bringing storytelling to life.”


Since 2015, the National Geographic Okavango Wilderness Project has been surveying and collecting scientific data on the Okavango River system and working with local communities; NGOs; and the governments of Angola, Namibia, and Botswana to secure permanent, sustainable protection for the greater Okavango River Basin.

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