First outdoor test flight of a quadcopter have occurred under the territory of Land of the Leopard National Park this week. Bird’s-eye view video and images of the protected area were get thanks to the Phoenix Fund. More and more frequently, one can see that unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) with mounted photo- and video cameras are used during outdoor public events. However, it is no secret that quadcopters are also used to get beautiful landscape photos. Thanks to the Phoenix Fund, it became possible to do landscape photos just a few hundred meters above a tourist route named “Following the Path of the Leopard”. During a walk along the route, the quadcopter rose in the sky several times. Although trees with abundant foliage did not let to see the details of the tourist route, it became possible to get wonderful bird’s-eye views of the hills in the national park; and it’s worth it.
“Today new technology gives us unique opportunities”, says Valentina Vysotskaya, Head of the Environmental Education Department of Land of the Leopard National Park. “It let us show much better and more vividly the beauty of the Southwest Primorye to people who have already visited us and those who are just planning to come here. I hope that our collection of still photos taken from the quadcopter will be constantly replenished by the new ones, and they will help attract here real nature enthusiasts”.
After conducting successful first test flights of the quadcopter above the Land of the Leopard, specialists of the Phoenix Fund and the national park would like to hold a series of analogous meetings.
“Our task is to help national parks and nature reserves of the Russian Far East to protect unique nature”, says Director of the Phoenix Fund Sergei Bereznuk. “In our work we are trying to go with the times and use new tools and technology. And light unmanned aerial vehicles with mounted video cameras are among these tools. A quadcopter flying camera lets observe how the national park is protected, gives information on areas that have high fire potential, and helps monitor wildlife, etc. Also, it is important to note that such camera let show beautiful landscape and natural objects from a different angle. We are hopeful that such a new look at the Land of the Leopard will draw more attention towards conservation of rare big cats living in this area. We have been working on this pilot project for the second year in row through trial and error. Now, we are moving into a different level. We can provide technical assistance and lead the project in the protected areas of the Russian Far East. We are thankful to Alertis: fund for bear and nature conservation, Whitley Fund for Nature and ALTA for their support of this pilot project”.
You can see video here: http://youtu.be/dCB7LA8Hbzg
In May, the team carried on patrolling the assigned territory in order to prevent and reveal ecological violations in the Land of the Leopard National Park and adjacent areas of hunting leases. The team patrolled day and night. In all, the inspectors conducted 21 patrols. Besides protecting the Park from poachers, the inspectors also do their best to prevent and extinguish any ignitions on the protected area.
Also, the team gave one lecture on careful attitude towards nature for schoolchildren in Barabash village of Khasan district.
On May 1, the team finally put out the fire that started near Bamburovo railway station a few days earlier. No more ignitions were revealed in May in the southern part of the protected area.
On May 21, the inspectors set up 11 new border signs along Razdolnoye-Bezverkhovo highway.
From May 21 through May 23, the team patrolled the northern part of the national park and found out that the area near engineering and technical facilities (wired fences and the exclusion zone) along Russia-China border was frequently visited by people, supposedly by border guards, with intent to hunt illegally there. The information was forwarded to the inspector who was in charge of protecting that part of the park.
In May, it was decided to spend more time in ambushes near hand-made salt licks in order to prevent illegal hunting there.
In May, the team carried on patrolling the assigned territory in order to prevent and reveal ecological violations in the Land of the Leopard National Park and adjacent areas of hunting leases. The team patrolled day and night. In all, the inspectors conducted 21 patrols. Besides protecting the Park from poachers, the inspectors also do their best to prevent and extinguish any ignitions on the protected area. Also, the team gave one lecture on careful attitude towards nature for schoolchildren in Barabash village of Khasan district.
On May 1, the team finally put out the fire that started near Bamburovo railway station a few years earlier. No more ignitions were revealed in May in the southern part of the protected area.
In June, the team of central subordination patrolled the Land of the Leopard National Park and adjacent areas of hunting leases in Khasan and Nadezhdinsky districts. The patrols were carried out mostly during the late evening or at night. All in all, the inspectors conducted 22 patrols.
On June 14, while patrolling the protected area near Pozharsky railway station at 3 a.m., the inspectors noticed a light ray bouncing in many different directions. It was decided to get close and see what was happening there. Having arrived at the railway, the inspectors spotted a car parked there and the rays of two flashlights coming towards the team. The inspectors decided to wait out in the bushes until people get closer. When two men approached the inspectors, it became clear that they had been hunting illegally with the use of spotlight at night. One of the men who turned out to be a police officer working in Vladivostok city was armed with a gun. He was detained, but his partner managed to escape. The detainee was taken to Slavyansky police station to initiate a criminal proceeding.
On June 28, during a night patrol along the Narva River, the team saw the light running in all directions. The inspectors pulled in to the side of the road and walked towards violators. After a while, they heard five gunshots. When they got closer, the inspectors saw people doing something in the field. When they tried to get out from the forest and go out on the road, one of the violator was detained. The other one offered serious resistance, and even shot in the air to frighten the inspectors. The detainee had a carbine, a knife, a bag with cartridges and a flashlight. Also, the inspectors examined a place in the field where the violators were spotted and found three backpacks with meat and two skins and heads of sika deer. The detainee was taken to Slavyansky police station where a criminal proceeding was initiated against him in accordance with 258 article of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.
In July rangers conducted 23 patrols during which only one violation of protected regime was registered. On July 29, two residents of Barabash village entered the protected area without permissions. The inspectors issued administrative reports.
Also, on July 7, the team was investigating a case where a leopard killed a deer at a farm in Bezverkhovo. The rangers confirmed by the evidence on site that the animal was killed by a leopard and now the owner can address to Phoenix Fund for compensation. Since 1999 Phoenix has been paying compensations to farmers suffering from livestock depredation in order to discourage farmers and villagers from killing predators. Due to limited funding, the program runs only in Khasan district, where Amur leopards are the priority for conservation.
In January 2014, the team carried out 23 anti-poaching patrols, some of which were conducted in cooperation with police officers. Also, the inspectors continued marking the border of the national park by setting up new signs. And as in previous months, they gave two lectures on careful attitude towards nature at school in Zarubino village.
On January 13, the team received information about a fire on Stolovaya hill in the Land of the Leopard National Park. Upon arrival, the inspectors discovered a large fire. Strong gusty wind blowing from sea to land and marshland with high and thick reeds hindered the efforts of the team to put out the fire. It took a few hours before it was extinguished. When examining the burned area, the inspectors determined that the fire was an act of arson. The fire burned about 45 hectares. On January 19, another fire was discovered near the Narva River. Thanks to prompt actions by the team, the fire did not spread deep into the forest and no damage was caused to the protected area. The burned area was about two hectares. The inspectors forwarded papers about the arson to Khasan police for further investigation. It is worth mentioning that due to the continued lack of adequate snow cover it was hard for the inspectors to reveal trespassing. That is why it was decided to increase the number of ambushes at places where poaching was most likely to occur. In January, the number of hunting out of a car increased. In this connection, the team had to show up regularly on public roads in order to prevent such violations.
In February, the team continued patrolling the protected area and adjacent hunting leases in order to prevent or reveal poaching and protect the area from forest fires. Overall, the inspectors carried out 24 patrols and extinguished four fires. Due to increased number of fires inside the national park, in order to be able to respond promptly, effectively and safely to wildfires it was decided to reduce the distance of foot patrols and patrol mostly in areas where fires were likely to occur. Also, they gave three lectures on careful attitude towards nature at schools in Zanadvorovka and Barabash villages. In addition, the team set up information signs and repaired a patrol vehicle.
During night patrol on February 14 near Narvinsky firing range, the team saw a beam of light. When approaching to the light, the inspectors saw people who were casting “an artificial light” from their car hoping to shoot a deer. After a pursue, resistance by poachers and a fight, the violators with a rifled carbine were detained and taken to Khasan police station for further investigation. A criminal case was initiated under the Article 258 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.
In March, the team of central subordination continued patrolling the protected area in order to prevent and reveal any violations of environmental laws. Most patrols were carried out during daylight hours due to high fire-risk season. Sometimes, the patrols were conducted in cooperation with specialists of Krainovsky nature reserve and gamekeepers of adjacent hunting leases. In all, the team carried out 22 patrols, extinguished 11 forest fires and gave two lectures on nature conservation for schoolchildren.
As it was mentioned above, besides protecting the Park from poachers, the team paid special attention to prevent ignitions. In all, eleven forest fires were detected and put out both in the Park and adjacent territory. According to the team’s leader, all fires were set deliberately. And the areas were fires took place remained the same as in previous fire seasons: Bezverkhovsky firing range (the Upper Pugachevka river), territory around Bamburovo railway station, Berabash, Primorsky and Ovchinnikovo villages.
On March 1, while patrolling the team detected a forest fire near the Verkhnye Brusya river and promptly put it out. The fire burned a 100x20 m area. On March 4, a fire was extinguished in cottage village near Bamburovo railway station. The fire burned an area estimated at 30 meters. On March 6, the team together with inspectors from other teams put out a fire on the Narvensky pass. The fire burned over 6 hectares. On March 9, a forest fire on 12 km of Barabash-Primorsky highway was promptly extinguished. The fire burned about 10 hectares. On March 10, while patrolling along a railway, the inspectors detected a fire on the adjacent hunting lease. As there was a risk of fire spread from the hunting lease to the national park, it was decided to extinguish the fire immediately. The fire was put out quickly. On March 13, a fire was put out near a railway bridge over the Narva river. On March 19, in cooperation with inspectors from other teams a fire was extinguished on Narvinsky firing range. The fire burned the area estimated at 4 hectares. From March 24 to March 26, the team together with volunteer fire fighters and foresters extinguished a forest fire started on the adjacent area near the Poima river. Swampy terrain with thick stands of tall reeds and strong and gusty wind blowing toward the national park hindered their efforts. The firefighters struggled several hours before the fire was put out. The fire burned a 3 kmx2km area. On March 28, while patrolling near Narvinsky firing range, the team detected a fire and put it out at promptly. The fire burned about 8 hectares. On March 30, the team detected a fire on Narvinsky firing range again and put it out at once.
In April, most patrols were aimed at prevention of forest fires. The team patrolled day and night. Sometimes the patrols were carried out in cooperation with inspectors from other anti-poaching teams and officers from military forestry. In all, the team conducted 23 patrols.
On April 11, the team received information about ignition in the Park near Pozharsky railway station. Upon arrival on the scene, the team with colleagues from other AP teams discovered a burned area estimated at 1.5 km. Only after four-hour struggle, the fire was put out. On April 12, the team detected a fire near the Semiverstka river. The inspectors together with other anti-poaching teams tried to extinguish the fire several times, but strong and gusty wind and thick smoke hindered their efforts. The inspectors took another try next morning but failed to put out the fire properly due to a strong wind. It was decided to patrol the area on a regular basis in order to prevent fire spread to other areas. In the evening, the team was informed about another forest fire started near the Poima river. All Park’s teams were deployed there. It took four hours before the fire was put out. But due to dry and windy weather grass fires ignited again and again. It was decided to patrol the area on a regular basis too. In all, the fire burned an area estimated at 12 hectares. As no ignitions was detected since April 15, the inspectors were deployed to other spot to help put out a fire that started on April 17. The fire burned about 4,000 hectares. On April 18, when patrolling along Barabash-Primorsky highway, the team detected a fire and put it out promptly. About 1 hectare burned. On April 27, at noon the team was informed about a forest fire near Bamburovo railway station. Upon arrival on the scene, the inspectors saw that dry brush and gusty winds made the perfect conditions for fire spread to the area of the national park. The fire was put out only at 5 a.m. of the next day, but blazes appeared again and kept spreading with every wind gust. Thanks to help of foresters, the fire was finally localized at 1 p.m.
The Land of the Leopard is on fire! Our ranger informed us that the fire-hazardous season started very early this year caused by open winter with no snow. Usually the wildland fires in Khasan district begin in March or even April. However, in 2014 we have to start fire-fighting in February. The Phoenix Fund began to gather volunteer brigades that will help the national park to fight fires in the Amur leopard habitat. We ask everyone to support our important work with your donations. Now the collected funds will go to purchase of necessary fire-fighting equipment and fuel for the brigades' vehicles.
The efficient anti-poaching activities that were implemented in Khasansky district of Primorye thanks to GlobalGiving supporters ensured good protection of leopards’ habitat. But the survival of the big cats also depends on a peaceful coexistence of animals and people.
For more than two years the female Amur leopard Sophie lives in close proximity to one of the deer farms located in the Khasansky district of Primorye. Such neighborship is unfavorable to the owner because the animal uses his territory as the hunting site. Therefore, the farmer suffers constant damage from leopard’s presence.To solve the conflict between the man and the animal the Phoenix Fund together with the Institute of environmental problems and evolution of A.N. Severtsov of the Russian Academy of Sciences developed a special program which helps to maintain tolerant relation of the farmers towards rare predators. The main difference of this program from paying compensation to the owner of cattle for the damage caused by a predator is that every month the farmer receives a fixed sum of money for the fact of leopard’s presence in close proximity to his territory. The information on leopard’s presence in the territory of the deer farm at the beginning was gathered by scientists through the coordinates received from Sophie’s radio collar, and later, when the batteries on the collar ran down - through the photos made with photo traps.
After a long pause during the spring and autumn season when the hidden cameras couldn't record presence of a leopard at the Olenevod deer farm in Khasan, the good news came – camera traps finally caught female leopard Sophie, her kitten and a male leopard. Now the experts will compare new photos with hundreds of others available in a database to define who is visiting Sophie. Old or new guests?
The owner of the farm Alexander Khudenko was also excited about the new photographs of the leopards. These photographs allowed him to receive a promised compensation from the Phoenix Fund for a long-term presence of the animal on the farm’s land. The compensation for 7 months from May to November amounted in a rather big sum of money - 105 thousand rubles ($3500)!
In order to monitor leopards’ presence on the private territory in future, the Phoenix Fund purchased additional photo traps which will be installed along the perimeter of the deer farm in 2014.
We hope that this project will help cultivate tolerance among locals towards rare and beautiful wild cats, and also will make them proud to be living in the neighborhood with such unique animals.
Photo credits: A.N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution of the Russian Academy of Sciences
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