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Премия рунета 2017

WALRUSES ARE NOW BEING MONITORED FROM SPACE

24 august 2020
Satellite technology helps to study the Atlantic walrus population. WWF Russia and RiskSat company joined forces and started satellite monitoring of the haul-out as a part of work on conservation of these rare species on the Oranskie Islands.

In 2012, WWF-Russia and Scanex became pioneers in the field of satellite monitoring of animals – in that year the main walrus haul-outs were pictured by satellites throughout the Russian Arctic. Today it is possible to work with images from open sources and detect large concentrations of walruses promptly using free resources. It is especially important to obtain information about northern walrus groups in a hard-to-reach places where satellite monitoring sometimes remains the only source of information.

Walrus rookery
First fixation of walrus ashore of the island
Самая крупная залежка 0,5 га
(с) Sentinel-2. Copernicus
«Such monitoring allows us to understand when the walruses came to the shore, and how the density of the rookery has changed over time. In the fall we will see when the walruses finally leave the coast and go to sea, on ice. Comparing this data with other information – about the ice conditions around the island and passing ships through the Northern Sea Route and other factors of disturbance, we will be able to understand better what really affects the walruses and how to improve the protection of the rookery in the future», – comments Margarita Leskova, Project Coordinator of the Barents Branch WWF Russia.

The project for satellite observation of walruses on the Oranskie Islands began on 1 July and will run until October. In the summer, high school students from different cities of Russia joined the project. The interregional team of students under the “RiskSat”company guidance do satellite monitoring on the islands. The project participants observed the dynamic of the rookery, estimated the size and number of walruses. The students processed the received pictures and transferred the information to the scientists.

Students remotely examine images of walruses
(c) RiskSat Company
«It is important that the project involves schoolchildren from different cities who use modern space technologies to protect nature. The use of open sources can reduce the cost of satellite monitoring, cause we don’t need detailed but pricey imagery anymore. Medium resolution images allow us to determine the presence of animals on rookeries. We also can plan field trips even better taking into account information about rookeries», – says Alexey Kucheiko, CEO of RiskSat.

Thanks to the data obtained, it is already possible to tell how the Atlantic walruses spent this summer. By early July, the Bolshoi Oranskiy Vostochny Island had already been free from snow and ice. And on July 19, the first landfall of walruses was captured. And then, the formation of a rookery was noted in the second half of July. Observation of the Atlantic walrus northern group will continue and the data obtained will help to get more accurate information on the number of the species in the Russian Arctic.

For additional information please contact
Press officer of Barents ecoregional programme