Africa is the last continent on earth to hold on to its ‘megafauna’ – the really big stuff like elephants, rhinos and herds of antelope tens thousands strong - and it’s hanging on to them by the skin on its teeth.
Here at the MAPA Project, we’re making sure that no one can say “We never knew!” when it comes to keeping African parks and wildlife in the public eye.
MAPA stands for ‘Mapping Africa’s Protected Areas’ and so far we’ve plotted the major parks, reserves, and protected areas for Southern and East Africa. Check them out on Google Earth and watch epic wildlife video snippets or just find out about places you didn’t even know existed. Download the MAPA layer and find out just how extraordinary our continent is. You can also find the layer in the Google Earth Outreach Showcase.
What’s the largest mammal migration on earth? You’d probably guess the wildebeest migration in East Africa with over a million wildebeest and zebra on the move every year. Well, it may be the heaviest one, but what about the two million fruit bats which gather in Kasanka National Park in Zambia every November and fly off every evening, darkening the sky for twenty minutes? Nobody knows why they all go there, but go they do – and you can too.
It’s a work-in-progress and we have thousands more parks, blog posts, research projects and icons to get up but we are really on our way now. We plan to be at it for another couple of years but if you need to know anything about conservation in Africa, start here and you will end up in the right place.
Conservationists and GIS enthusiasts all across Africa are helping us to pull this groundbreaking project together. You can too: each park and reserve on the map tells its story and each links to websites with even more info. Bloggers are welcome on the layer and over fifty are already keeping us posted with what they are doing for conservation.
Have you ever wondered what happens to all those tracks that researchers download from satellite collars on the National Geographic channel? Well we did too, so we’re looking for them and we’ve already put a couple online for you to unravel, with plenty more to come.
So, if you are considering traveling in Africa, if you need some really credible background to that news story or school project, or if you just know the value of something that is irreplaceable, load this layer and watch what Africa is doing to conserve its priceless environmental legacy. For more information on how to get involved, visit www.mapaproject.org.
Project KaiseiRight now, in the North Pacific Gyre, an 'island' of garbage twice the size of the state of Texas is floating across the surface of the ocean. This area was recently visited by the members of Project Kaisei who tracked their voyage using Google Earth and Maps. Project Kaisei researchers have experimented with converting plastic particles from the "Plastic Vortex" into diesel, and hope to eventually power their vessels with this fuel, creating fully sustainable expeditions. VideoSave the ElephantsFor over 20 years, Dr. Iain Douglas-Hamilton, founder of Save the Elephants, has worked to protect elephants in Mali from poachers using geofences and satellite collars, among other technologies. With Google Earth, Dr. Douglas-Hamilton can track these elephants on a map and has been able to save many animals' lives, rescuing trapped elephants and helping animals suffering from the effects of local drought and climate change. VideoBorneo Orangutan SurvivalThe number of Orangutans in the wild today is decreasing at a staggering pace largely because of the destruction of their rainforest habitats. In Sumatra, recent calculations show that the total Orangutan population has fallen from 12,000 in 1993 to approximately 6,500 today. Willie Smits and the Borneo Orangutan Survival Organization have used Google Earth as a platform to enable everyone to participate in their reforestation project by viewing and adopting forest acreage in the Samboja Lestari region. VideoChief Almir and the SuruiSince he first observed the illegal logging of his tribe's territory with Google Earth in an internet cafe several years ago, Chief Almir Surui, along with Google Earth Outreach, have worked together to raise awareness about this issue, and Surui culture as a whole. Most recently, in addition to the launch of the “Trading Bows and Arrows for Laptops” Google Earth tour, members of the Google Earth Outreach team traveled to the Amazon to teach the Surui how mobile devices can be used to capture photos of illegal logging activity and uploaded to Google Earth. VideoAppalachian VoicesMountaintop removal coal mining refers to a process of detonating explosives in order to mine coal seams that would otherwise be difficult to access. The practice is hugely detrimental to the surrounding environment, pollutes nearby drinking-water sources, permanently destroys the mountains themselves, and often causes cancer and other diseases. Appalachian Voices, a grassroots environmental group in North Carolina, has educated millions of people, including policy-makers and legislators, about this destructive mining process by flying users over the 470 mine sites in the Appalachian mountains with Google Earth. The organization also has a layer in Google Earth dedicated to these efforts. Video