What does the Apollo 11 moon landing have to do with migratory waterbirds in Africa? Well, the link can be found in the optical equipment that was used during the successful mission to the moon in 1969 and the high-precision optical equipment that will soon be used by a network of experts committed to monitoring and conserving migratory waterbirds across Africa.

The moon and a flock of Common Cranes in flight. Common Cranes are among the migratory waterbirds that are listed under the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement (AEWA) / Photo: Thomas Krumenacker

Still referred to today as the “Eye of Apollo”, the special optical equipment that accompanied Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins on their journey to the moon was a LEICA monocular TRINOVID 10 x 40. The monocular was used as a navigation aid by the crew of several Apollo missions, including by those that carried out the historic Apollo 11 moon landing on 20 July 1969 using the famous “Eagle” lunar module. A day after the moon landing, the company – then known as the Ernst Leitz GmbH – proudly reported in a telegram on 21 July 1969 that their TRINOVID monocular had been selected by NASA because of its optimum performance, small size, lightweight, and the fact that it was “atmospherically independent” – in other words, that it was built in a way that it would be “fit for use in outer space”.

54 years later, a set of 10 LEICA binoculars from the legendary TRINOVID product line will be making their way to key sites in Africa and Eurasia to support internationally coordinated efforts to monitor and protect migratory waterbirds across the African-Eurasian Flyways. The first batch of ten high-precision LEICA Trinovid 10×42 binoculars will soon be handed over to the first recipients amongst the waterbird experts in the region to support the professional monitoring work being conducted under the umbrella of the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement (AEWA), an intergovernmental environment treaty dedicated to the conservation and sustainable use of migratory waterbirds across Africa and Eurasia.

Members of the Strategic Working Group of the African-Eurasian Waterbird Monitoring Partnership unboxing the first batch of 10 Leica Trinovid 10×42 binoculars donated by Leica Camera AG for distribution to the waterbird monitoring network in the AEWA Agreement area, October 2023, Wetlands International’s HQ, The Netherlands / Photo: Szabolcs Nagy

The donation is part of a new three-year cooperation agreement the company has signed with the international treaty that aims to further develop and strengthen waterbird monitoring across Africa and Eurasia. As part of the agreement, Leica Camera AG has committed to provide annual donations of both funds and optical equipment to support waterbird monitoring work in countries along the African-Eurasian Flyways. The first annual donation from LEICA Camera AG of funding and ten LEICA Trinovid binoculars will be used to primarily support waterbird monitoring work in the West Asia-East Africa flyway.

Waterbird Monitoring across Africa and Eurasia

The AEWA treaty covers a geographic range that spans over 119 countries across Africa and Eurasia. The countries that have signed up to the treaty have agreed to work together for the protection and conservation of the 255 species of African-Eurasian migratory waterbirds covered by the treaty. These include well-known and charismatic species such as the White Stork, Red Knot, and the Lesser Flamingo. To effectively conserve these migratory waterbirds, countries need to prioritize, plan, and implement measures while having regular feedback on the status of waterbird populations. Monitoring migratory waterbirds is crucial for understanding their population sizes and trends, identifying potential drivers of population change, and better targeting effective conservation measures.

As such, waterbird monitoring is a fundamental prerequisite for effective conservation output. It is also a key aspect of the implementation of the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement, and significant further investment is needed to improve monitoring capacity in all countries that have committed to protecting migratory waterbirds under the treaty. The waterbird monitoring work under AEWA is coordinated through the African-Eurasian Waterbird Monitoring Partnership, which supports monitoring efforts in many countries across Africa and Eurasia. It will also ensure that the donations resulting from the agreement between Leica and AEWA will be allocated according to the defined priorities for waterbird monitoring development that have been agreed by the Contracting Parties to AEWA.

The Secretariat of the Waterbird Monitoring Partnership is provided by Wetlands International which is an important partner of AEWA and a leading international organization dedicated to the conservation of wetlands and their associated biodiversity. Wetlands International has been coordinating the International Waterbird Census since the 1960s. Through its extensive network of experts and partners, Wetlands International plays a pivotal role in organizing the census, which involves large numbers of volunteers, scientists, and conservationists worldwide.

A Good Fit for Waterbird Monitoring

One of the most important, yet often-underestimated tools playing a pivotal role in waterbird monitoring is a pair of quality binoculars. In fact, some of the characteristics that convinced NASA to choose the LEICA Trinovid monocule would likely also convince many bird monitoring experts to say that particular binoculars are “fit for purpose” as a tool to support professional bird monitoring work. Here are some of the characteristics and reasons why a pair of good binoculars is important for professional waterbird monitoring:

  • Precision and Clarity – When it comes to observing waterbirds, clarity and precision are paramount. Quality binoculars offer sharp, high-contrast images, allowing you to identify and document different bird species accurately. This is especially crucial for distinguishing between look-alike species, a common challenge in waterbird monitoring.
  • Extended Reach – Waterbirds dwell mostly in wetlands where they can be quite distant from observers. High-quality binoculars with powerful magnification enable you to get closer and count the birds without disturbing them.
  • Low Light Performance – Waterbird monitoring often takes place in the early morning and at dusk. Premium binoculars often have superior low-light performance, ensuring that you don’t miss critical observations during these low-light conditions.
  • Optimal Color Reproduction – Accurate color representation is very important when identifying waterbirds. Quality binoculars offer true-to-life color reproduction, allowing you to appreciate and record the subtle nuances in plumage and markings that aid in species identification.
  • Durability and Weather Resistance – Waterbird monitoring often involves exposure to various weather conditions, including rain, wind, and even saltwater environments. Quality binoculars are built to withstand these challenges, featuring rugged construction and weather-resistant coatings to ensure they remain functional, even in adverse conditions.
  • Ergonomics and Comfort – Long hours of waterbird counting can be physically demanding. High-quality binoculars are designed with ergonomic features that reduce fatigue, making it more comfortable to hold and use them for extended periods.
  • Consistency and Reliability – Reliable binoculars provide consistent performance over time. In the context of waterbird monitoring, this ensures that you can rely on your equipment for years, maintaining the accuracy and consistency of your data.

Just as essential equipment on a lunar mission, good binoculars are indispensable tools in the world of waterbird monitoring. A pair of good binoculars clearly enhances our ability to observe and count migratory waterbirds in the field, aiding in accurate species identification and data collection. Whether you are a waterbird monitor, an ornithologist, a birdwatcher, a waterbird enthusiast, or a conservationist, acquiring quality binoculars is a wise decision that can significantly improve the effectiveness and enjoyment of your waterbird monitoring endeavors.

Environmental Stewardship

As a result of the new partnership agreement with AEWA, Leica Camera AG is not only demonstrating its dedication to nature conservation and to protecting the planet’s biodiversity, it has also gained the status of an official Migratory Species Champion for AEWA’s waterbird monitoring work, making LEICA a leading example of cooperate responsibility and environmental stewardship in support of the work of the treaty.


For more information about the Agreement or the work of AEWA and the monitoring work being conducted under the African-Eurasian Waterbird Monitoring Partnership please contact Sergey Dereliev, Head of the Science, Implementation and Compliance Unit at the UNEP/AEWA Secretariat.

1 Internet: “50th anniversary of moon landing – Leica monocular for NASA’s Apollo 11 astronauts” – Leica Nature Blog (10 Juily 2019) https://leica-nature-blog.com/50yearsmoonlandingtrinovid/
2 Internet: “Leica Monocular for NASA’s Apollo 11” – Leica Barnack Berek Blog / Heinz Richter (29 October 2021) https://gmpphoto.blogspot.com/2021/10/leica-monocular-for-nasas-apollo-11.html

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