Satellite Tracking Walrus in the Pechora Sea

We post very few articles about the Atlantic Walrus, so this one caught my eye. The World Wildlife Fund is using satellite imagery to track a small population of Altlantic Walrus in the Pechora Sea north of Russia. The walrus population is growing, but so is oil drilling activity in this sea.

The success of deciphering walruses with the help of satellite images, along with field-studies, will allow environmentalists and scientists to quickly get an idea about the population. That will help us to develop measures for preservation in an area of booming industrial activities, says Alexey Knizhnikov with the WWF in Moscow.

Satellites to Track Walrus: Is it noted that the program is planned to expand in 2012 to include more walrus populations throughout the Russian Arctic.

There is a link to the satellite image here  – but the site is in Russian. More info is at the WWF, but I can’t find the page in English. Here’s a link to the Russian page

Using Google Translate, the page text is:

Satellite imagery – a real breakthrough in the study of Atlantic walrus in the Barents Sea

Today, the Day of the Walrus, experts summarized the study and protection of walruses per year, assessed the threat of new industrial projects in their habitat, and discussed a new way to protect them – satellite monitoring.

The main purpose of this meeting an expert advisory group – to develop new measures to minimize threats to walrus of industrial projects in the Arctic. This year, the date of the meeting of expert group took place at the International Day of the walrus – a new holiday, which WWF has established jointly with the marine mammals in 2008.

Summer satellite imagery made ​​it possible to track the distribution and numbers of walruses on shore haul out. For example, on the island of Matveev (cluster Nenets reserve) found a rookery of 200 individuals, on the shore of the peninsula Lyamchin – 400. Experts are sure that we can speak about the effectiveness of the use of satellite information, not only for accurate detection haul animals, but also counting their number.

 The success in deciphering the walrus by using satellite imagery, along with ground-based studies, will allow environmental and scientific organizations to quickly get basic information about the Red Book as a , – says Alexey Knizhnikov, WWF Russia expert. – This will help to develop measures for its preservation in a  boom “Economic development in the region. Obtained valuable experience interpreting clusters walrus, which can be successfully applied to other species. “

Due to the success of the first pilot project and the results obtained, the organizers of the work (WWF Russia, the Council on Marine Mammals and RDC) plan, starting in 2012 to conduct a multiple-time imagery of walrus haul-out sites throughout the Russian Arctic – in addition to the Barents Sea to the Kara interpretation of walrus , East Siberian Sea and Laptev Sea. With this data, WWF plans to exactly one year to the next Day of the Walrus, walrus haul-out sites to map in the Russian Arctic, and to restore the legal status of protection zones not only walruses and other marine mammals.

Assessment of adverse effects and risks to the population of Atlantic walrus is becoming a priority due to the installation in August 2011 a huge platform Prirazlomnaya in the Pechora Sea. It will store up to 120 thousand tons of oil in the case of spills at sea can reach tens of thousands of tons of oil. But the view of environmental organizations such high ecological risks are unacceptable today.

Although a unique Russian subspecies of walrus is recognized, these efforts seem directed at a population of Atlantic Walrus. A small population to be sure, but it appears from the info to be growing.

Umky Patrol: Protecting us from polar bears, protecting walrus from themselves.

This video just showed up on YouTube.  This is from the from the World Wildlife Fund and explains their “Umky Patrols” which is a partnership with the Chukchi in Northern Russia. Primarily to keep polar bears from continuing to intrude on villages and become scavengers, the patrols are also protecting the large walrus haul-outs occurring (apparently) on the Russian “side” as well. Their protection of the walrus is centered on controlling panicked stampedes among the large haul outs, which result in crushed calf walruses. The walrus portion of this video starts at 1:29, although there are some disturbing images of dead walrus – so this one’s probably not for the younger kids.

The Umky Patrol highlighted here is in Russia – but we’ve got the same issues going on in Alaska. In fact the Chuchki apparently recently visited their counterparts in Alaska to share expertise and hopefully extend the protective efforts to “our” fragile Arctic animals as well.

Chukotka, by the way – is directly across the Bering Strait from Alaska and is the closest Russian territory to the US. That part of Russia that Sarah Palin can “see” from her back porch – it’d be Chukotka. That would make these Pacific Walruses.

For more on WWF’s work in the Arctic, and on the Umky Patrol, visit: