Nature Thriving: The Wolves of Aoos Gorge, Greece
In Greece’s spectacular Aoos Gorge and surrounding mountains, Nature Guardians – acoustics sensors networked to cloud AI – have been deployed to detect the gunshots of poachers and hunters who target local wildlife, including wolves, bears, and the endangered Balkan chamois.
Sensors deployed high up in trees where they can’t be seen pick up the sounds of potential threats and send the data across a telecommunications network to a cloud platform. Trained to recognise certain sounds, such as the chainsaws of illegal logging, trucks, and gunshots, AI analytics sends an alert to forest rangers if a threat is detected. Rangers can then respond to the threat in near real time.
Each Guardian covers an area of 3 square kilometers, greatly offsetting the cost, inefficiency, and time associated with patrolling large areas of land on foot. Since deployment in April, more than five gunshots have been recorded and word is out in the local community: it’s no longer open season on endangered wildlife. Instead, poachers risk arrest.
In mid June, Rainforest Connection (RFCx) and the local partner checked the five sensors that had thus far been deployed, replacing solar panels damaged by strong wind and checking sensors for humidity damage. Additionally, a software update was installed to improve the remote reboot capabilities of the sensors in the event of a power failure.
Also in June, forest rangers received training in using the acoustics equipment, with another session planned for September. Then a few weeks later in July, Lawrence Whittaker, Lead Field Installation Specialist for RFCx, went out in the field to install an additional Guardian.
Lawrence in the field installing a Guardian device during first-phase deployment
By Lawrence Whittaker
After two days of uphill hiking through the Greek wilderness, we reached an open prairie area in the shadow of the towering Gkamila Plateau.
Finally, we had reached the camping area where local hunters stay the night and search for prey, we were to place a Guardian in the area that day.
The placement of the Guardian was strategically chosen for both biodiversity and hunting pressure, as the area was known for its Balkan chamois, bear, Roe Deer and wolves.
Footage of wildlife captured around Aoos Gorge during project deployment
It was the latter which was to grace us with its eerie presence; at roughly 23:00 that night we heard a pack of wolves howling only 200 metres from our camp.
The sound of the wolf howls indicates that they have new cubs they are rearing and that this area is the centre of their territory. We were temporarily invading their space, but for a good reason. To install a Guardian device which would ensure their protection using acoustic monitoring to detect the sounds of threats.
Maintenance tasks, training, and expanding the reach of the sensors are all vital right now: the hunting season starts in Greece in the last week of August, a time that’s inevitably accompanied by an increase in poaching. While hunting is legal in Greece, it’s restricted in the protected areas of national parks.
The Nature Guardian project in Greece is one of the acoustics projects supported by Huawei under the environmental domain of our TECH4ALL initiative. Follow us on Twitter @HUAWEI_TECH4ALL to keep up with the latest digital inclusion and sustainability news, stories, and projects.
- Protecting Wildlife in Greece with a Shield of Sound [Article & video on the Greece Nature Guardian Project]
- How Acoustics Can Safeguard Biodiversity [Video & transcript of the TEDx talk by RFCx’s Chrissy Durkin]
- Turning the Tide against Threats to Ocean Life [Article & video on how acoustics are protecting whales, dolphins & porpoises of Ireland’s south coast]
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