A mountain-top radio transmitter 1,300 metres above sea level has transformed the working practices of rangers employed by the Foundation for the Preservation of Wildlife and Cultural Assets (FPWC) with support from World Land Trust (WLT).
VivaCell-MTS funded and installed the transmitter, which now provides strong mobile and internet coverage in an area of the South Caucasus that includes the Caucasus Wildlife Refuge (CWR), which is owned and managed by FPWC. VivaCell-MTS is the leading telecommunication company in Armenia and FPWC’s main corporate partner.
“Being able to stay in communication with one another is very important in winter when heavy snow-fall, ice and unpredictable weather conditions make our work often very difficult and even dangerous,” explains Gor Hovanissyan, one of the rangers employed with funding from WLT’s Keepers of the Wild fund.
High-speed internet is now also available in the Urtsadzor Eco-Training Centre, which means that the rangers can send data and photos directly to FPWC’s main office in Yerevan.
As well as providing a reliable means of communication in a remote mountainous area, the new technology has enabled FPWC to install seven new online webcams in the CWR, which provide continuous, real-time, live streaming that can be watched and recorded on computers and screens all over the world.
FPWC unveiled the first online camera at a media event on 15 October. The launch was attended by the General Manager of VivaCell-MTS who used his opening speech to highlight the importance of FPWC’s work for the conservation of Armenia’s rare and endemic animals.
Not only can viewers watch any wildlife that comes in range of the camera but they can also see wildlife feedings of Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) and rare vultures: Cinereous Vulture (Aegypius monachus), Bearded Vulture (Gypaetus barbatus), and Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus).
FPWC is providing additional income to villagers in communities surrounding the wildlife refuge by purchasing carcasses of cattle and other dead stock, which are then placed in view of the cameras and used to “feed” threatened wildlife. Fresh carcasses will be provided twice per month contributing a much-needed, reliable food source for the CWR’s vultures and other wildlife.
Images from the webcams can be viewed on FPWC’s website and on WLT’s website.
The rangers have also installed a further 10 trail cameras with GSM capability (global system for mobile communications), thanks to a grant from the European Outdoor Conservation Association. “Not only do the new cameras provide round the clock surveillance of wild animals in real time, but they save hours of rangers’ time as before we had to check the camera traps regularly and to take out the footage manually,” said Gor.
The 10 trail cameras are triggered by motion. As soon as there is a movement in the area, the GSM camera immediately sends reports and images via SMS (short message service) or email. This keeps rangers alert to any animals passing the cameras, and also exposes any illegitimate human intruder in the area (poachers, hunters, loggers, thieves for cameras). The cameras work day and night, and in any weather conditions, ensuring high quality images and accuracy.
WLT has been working in partnership with FPWC since 2010 and helps to support the cost of leasing the CWR as well as funding rangers through the Keepers of the Wild programme. You can help WLT support conservation in Armenia by making a donation to Action Fund and putting “Armenia” in the comments box or by making a donation to Keepers of the Wild
You can also donate to Keepers of the Wild by texting from your mobile phone. For example, if you’d like to donate £5, text KOTW14 £5 to 70070. The maximum donation by text at any one time is £10.