By Anders Lorenzen
A nine-year-old eagle named Victor has a key role in documenting how the Alps are impacted by climate change. This week he will, equipped with a 360-degree camera mounted on his back, rise above the highest peak in the Alps, Mont Blanc. And for five days and in five countries he will document how the Alps are changing in a warming world. His flight will also show some of the world’s most spectacular scenery.
Victor’s journey is part of the Alpine Eagle Project, which aims to raise awareness of melting glaciers and other climate change impacts via the eyes of an eagle, a photographer and a scientist.
“It is the first time that we can really see nature from the perspective of an eagle. And we hope that (through) people seeing how beautiful our nature is, we can really raise awareness and actually give them a little reason to do something to reduce our impact on the climate.” So said Ronald Menzel, a co-founder of Eagle Wings which is a foundation that aims to protect the Alps.
Victor belongs to the eagle species White-tailed eagles. They are Europe’s largest, and so far there’s not too much concern about them going extinct as they’re ranked on UN’s endangered species list as of `least concern`. They are however becoming rarer and are sparse in Western Europe. Their survival depends on water resources provided by glaciers in the region. And they disappeared altogether from France 200 years ago with only a few remaining by the Swiss side of the border.
Jacques Olivier Travers, a co-founder of Eagle Wings and one of Victor’s falconers explains: “Unfortunately today glaciers are the main problem because we can see clearly that they’re melting at an incredible speed. So we need to protect this environment first to be able to bring these eagles back into the wild.”
There’s global concern about the rapid melting of glaciers around the world. Before-and- after pictures are doing the rounds, showcasing the drastic changes over a relatively short space of time and having huge implications for animals and humans residing in the region.
Ronald Menzel explains just how drastic the impacts are on the Alps: “Around the world, we have had over the last 50 years an increase of temperature of around 0.8 degrees (Centigrade). In the Alps, an average of 1.5 degrees. And here … in Mont Blanc, it is 2 degrees. So (it has) already (reached) the worst prediction that scientists gave for climate change in the next century.”
Victor may not know how important his five-day task is, and that it might pave the way for his species to return eventually to the high Alps. But first, he has some important work to do.