Tools for visualizing conservation on private land

Posted on November 26th, 2012 in General,Get Involved!,Google Geo Tools,Workshops by Alta

Few people will argue that protected areas – parks, nature reserves and other natural areas – are essential for biodiversity conservation. They assist in reducing deforestation, habitat and species loss, and support the livelihoods of over a billion people, while, according to IUCN’s latest report on the state of protected areas, containing 15% of the world’s carbon stock.  The same report shows how organisations and governments are working hard to secure more of it: in the last 20 years global coverage of areas has increased from 8.8% to 12.7% for terrestrial areas, and from 0.9% to 4% for marine areas.

However important formal protected areas are, it’s also undeniable that securing land for conservation via formal proclamation is not going to be enough for us to achieve our biodiversity goals. In South Africa’s Western Cape, for example, most of the province’s biodiversity lies within private ownership, and it is unrealistic that this land might be purchased by the state for conversion to Protected Areas.

For this reason, many national and provincial authorities have taken to “mainstreaming” biodiversity conservation by involving private landowners through stewardship initiatives, biodiversity agreements and other incentive-based or voluntary programmes.

These areas, the conservation efforts on them, and their overall contribution to the biodiversity estate are, however, not always all that well known by the general public. Needless to say, we at MAPA are thrilled to be involved in an initiative to help change this by making private conservation land, and conservation efforts on them, more visible and accessible with the help of free online geo tools.

Together with Conservation at Work, the umbrella body for conservation on private land in the Western Cape, we have put together a few resources specifically geared towards individuals conservancy members, stewardship site managers and other individuals active in conservation on private conservation areas:

  • On the 7th and 8th of February 2013, we will be running one of our popular Google Geo workshops at the University of Cape Town. This (free) workshop will be specifically tailored for the private conservation sector, and will teach highly practical tools for mapping, visualizing and sharing information about conservation efforts on private land. No prior programming or GIS experience is required!  To find out more and apply, visit Applications close 15 December 2012!
  • In conjunction with this opportunity, we are also making available a mapping toolkit.


The “Tools for mapping conservation on private land” website comprises a collection of online mapping resources to help you map your conservation efforts and areas, visualize problems and successes on private land, and communicate these maps and visualizations to colleagues, stakeholders, or the world.

On the site, you can learn how to add your project to MAPA’s registry of African conservation, how to create a shareable map for your projects, how to add your private protected land to Google Maps using Google Map Maker, how to communicate and visualise conservation with free online tools like Google Earth, Google Maps and Fusion Tables, and about upcoming in-person training on Geo Tools.

Whether you run a private game reserve, are an active conservancy member, or run a research project on a stewardship site, we hope you will help these resources helpful! We will be adding more articles and links to the site in the near future – please let us know what you would like to see on this site, and help us help you make conservation on private land more visible and accessible.

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Communicating Conservation with Google Geo Tools – Cape Flats style

Posted on July 6th, 2012 in General,Google Geo Tools,Workshops by Alta

As much as it is a pleasure to run trainings in other parts of our beautiful continent, it’s just as special being able to connect with conservationists here at home (which just happens to be a pretty important place for conservationists to be).

Two weeks ago, we had the privilege to do just that, as we showed 45 practitioners from non-profit and for-profit organisations, academia and the government how to use Google’s Geo Tools to communicate information and improve operations. Having run these workshops in the winelands and in the shadow of Devil’s Peak previously, we figured that it was the Cape Flats’ turn this time. Accordingly, we set up shop on the 5th floor of the University of the Western Cape’s state-of-the-art New Life Science building.

Full house on the first day of our training in the BCB departments’ 5th floor training room

One of the biggest reasons we love running Google Geo tool trainings is that we get to learn so much about what conservationists actually do on the ground, and how we can assist them with tools to communicate their efforts.  At this workshop we again saw the pressing need for practitioners to quickly and easily be able to visualise information to the public, stakeholders and colleagues, and we were delighted to see how quickly participants capitalised on the tools we were teaching them to do just that.

One example of this is PhD student Nicola Okes, who put together a crowd-sourcing application using Google Forms & Fusion Tables: anyone that has seen an otter, dead (red) or alive (yellow) on the Cape Peninsula can go to her website and contribute their finding, which will immediately display on a sightings map.



This workshop was also really special for a number of other reasons. For one, it was the most extensive one we had ever attempted. After “basic training” in Google Earth, Google Maps and Fusion Tables, participants could customise a training most suitable to their needs, choosing from sessions on Google Earth Tours, Open Data Kit, GIS & Google Earth, GPS in Google Earth, Google Maps API, Google Map Maker and Google Maps Engine.

March enthusiastically explains touring to a participant during one of the tea breaks

It was particularly exciting for us to be able to offer the latter two tools. Google Map Maker had only just become available in South Africa, so it was a real privilege to have Google’s Evans Arabu on hand to show participants how to put the places they care about on the map. Similarly, we loved that we were able to share the incredible geospatial capabilities of Google Maps Engine, a tool that is only just becoming available to nonprofits globally.

But perhaps the most outstanding thing for us about this workshop, from a personal point of view, was that it represented one further step in what we hope will be an ongoing and developing relationship with institutions  like SANBI and the University of the Western Cape. This training was a truly collaborative venture and we owe a really big debt of gratitude to the staff of the Biodiversity & Conservation Biology department at UWC. In particular, we’d like to thank Dr Richard Knight, Martin Cocks and Audrey King without whom we would definitely not have been able to pull this off.   We  hope that we can do this again sometime…


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MAPA Newsletter: New Developments and Northerly Drives

In the last three months we’ve been learning more about Zimbabwean conservation, released a brand new user-interface for finding and adding conservation projects , and have started to prepare for an exciting new workshop in Cape Town.  Here is our latest newsletter:

A brand new project user-interface and search page

One of our main jobs is to build a catalogue and map of Africa’s conservation projects. How well we achieve that almost entirely depends on how many conservationists use our website to add their work, which in turn largely depends on how easy it is for them to use it.

After quite a few iterations of just-not-quite-getting it right, we were excited to announce the release of a much cleaner and simpler new user-interface in March.  But don’t take our word for it – try it out yourself! Head over to to search the database for protected areas, critical habitats, and of course, contributed conservation projects from across the continent. Then map your search in Google Earth!

Can’t find your project in the database? Add it! Simply register as a user, login, and fill in your projects’ details. As soon as you choose to make it live, others will be able to find it in the database, and see it on our Google Earth conservation map.

We hope that you’ll enjoy using this new system – as always, we’d love to hear your thoughts and criticisms!

Zimbabwe Drive

At the end of March, with the help of our friends at Africa Geographic & Tracks4Africa, we embarked on a two month mission to get Zimbabwean conservation on the map – a drive that saw us connect with over a  hundred of the country’s most prominent and dedicated conservationists. During that time, we got to learn a little more about the projects these men and women work at, which include  environmental advocacy in the Zambezi valley, the research,  conservation and welfare of large carnivores,  on-the ground logistical support for Zimbabwe’s parks authorities and sustainable development through agricultural research and public-private partnerships – to name but a few.


Many of these Zimbabwean initiatives have already been added to our conservation map, and a few more will be live soon. Look out for that, a report back on the drive, and an exciting partnership with the Green Zambezi Alliance, in the six weeks.

Our Zimbabwean education wasn’t all “distance learning”, though! At the beginning of May, we also had the opportunity to travel up to Harare to meet a small group of Zimbabwean conservationists in person for a three day workshop on how to use Google’s mapping tools in their work, and how to use MAPA’s conservation mapping tool for their own benefit. This blog post has more.

Google Map Maker & Google Map Engine at our Cape Town training

Fresh of our mapping workshop at Mapumula in May, we announced another Google Geo Workshop for June, this time in Cape Town,  at UWC’s brand new Life Science building.

What’s particularly exciting about this training is that it will introduce two tools that are only just becoming available to South Africans, and nonprofits.

Google Map Maker, the tool that allows you to add the points of interests you care about to Google Maps, was launched South Africa just over a week ago. We’re so excited that Evans Arabu from the Google Map Maker team will be joining us at this workshop to show environmentalists how to give parks, reserves, landscape features and those obscure study sites nobody has ever heard of, their rightful and correct place on the map!

Another relatively new Google Geo Tool that will feature at the workshop is Google Maps Engine, a revolutionary geospatial tool that allows organisations to manage their data in the cloud and easily make and share maps using Google Earth, Maps and Android phones. Globally, it’s already being successfully utilised by organisations like World Wildlife Fund, Eyes on the Forest and the Living Oceans Society to manage and publish critical environmental data,  and we look forward to giving our workshop participants a first glance at how this technology can be leveraged for their own organisations.
The Overberg district municipality’s wetlands & critical biodiversity areas, mapped using Google Maps Engine (data downloaded from BGIS:, copyright C.A.P.E)

That’s it for this quarter’s newsletter! We look forward to sharing more conservation stories, tools, and of course, maps, with you in the next three months!



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Making maps at Mapumula: notes from our Google Geo workshop in Zim

Posted on May 28th, 2012 in General,Google Geo Tools,Workshops by Alta

Over the last couple of months we’ve been putting a lot focus on building a catalogue and map of Zimbabwean conservation efforts.  Whereas this drive is, in part, an attempt to organise and document information that may be useful to others, it’s aim is equally to communicate stories and efforts in a way that may promote understanding and inspire action.

One way MAPA works more broadly to achieve the latter goal is by running trainings to equip the people who are best placed to communicate these efforts and issues – conservationists themselves – with the tools to do so. It was for one such training, as well as to connect with the Zimbabwean conservationists we had been speaking to, that we found ourselves at Mapumula Lodge just outside Harare at the beginning of May.

Prior to arriving at our rustic training venue we were a little worried about internet connectivity and power cuts, but our hosts had worked hard to make sure that those fears were quickly dispelled. Between the smooth technical experience and the late-autumn sun, bushveld-air, home-cooked catering and twenty dedicated and enthusiastic participants this was easily one of our most enjoyable workshops to date!


After two intensive hands-on days of learning how to use Google Earth, Google Maps, Fusion Tables and the Open Data Kit, our participants had the opportunity on the third workshop day to apply their new skills to their own projects. Prior to the workshop, many of them had never used some of these tools, so we were extra impressed to see the projects that participants chose to work on. These included mapping schools and cattle dip-tanks with Fusion Tables, a Google Earth tour of points of interest on a private conservancy, and two applications using Google Forms & Fusion Tables to create a crowd-sourced map.

We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Zimbabwe – not only did we have the pleasure of meeting a group of extremely dedicated conservationists, we also had the privilege of travelling back to South Africa via the wild open spaces of the beautiful Gonarezhou National Park. We are so grateful to all the Zimbabweans who welcomed us into their conservation lives and helped to make this workshop specifically, and the (still ongoing) conservation drive more generally, a success.

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Announcing a Google Geo Tool training in Cape Town

Posted on May 14th, 2012 in General,Google Geo Tools,Workshops by Alta

Through our searchable online database and Google Earth map, the MAPA Project hopes to make African conservation more visible and accessible.  Over the last couple of years, we’ve coupled the development of our platform with hands-on workshops in which we further equip scientists and practitioners in the environmental sector with freely available and easy to use tools for communicating, visualising and mapping their conservation work.

Hot on the heels of our recent Google Geo Tool workshop in Zimbabwe (look out for a report back on that early next week!), we’re excited to announce that we’ll be bringing another Google Geo Tool workshop to Cape Town,  It will run from the 25th to the 27th of June 2012.

This time we’re teaming up with the University of the Western Cape’s Biodiversity & Conservation Biology department. The course will be run from their new, state-of-the-art computer training facility (pictured below), located in the swanky New Life Science building on UWC’s Bellville campus.


As with all our workshops, our workshops are designed for conservation practitioners of all levels of qualifications and assume no programming or GIS skills. You don’t need to be a GIS boffin or tech wiz to attend!


At the training we will show you how to get the most out of Google Mapping tools (particularly Google Earth, Google Maps and Fusion Tables) to support decision making, increase public awareness, and create maps for your conservation project or organisation. We also hope to use this event to show you how you can use the MAPA Project’s conservation map and searchable database, to showcase your work.


Applications will remain open until the 15th of June. We will be accepting successful applicants in on a rolling basis, so apply early to avoid disappointment!

Here are the important details again:

Hope to see you in June!

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The Zimbabwe Drive kicks off!

Posted on March 29th, 2012 in General,Get Involved!,Google Geo Tools,Workshops by Alta

In the last two months, we’ve been telling you lots about our collaborative drive to create a map and registry of Zimbabwean conservation projects.  Today we’re very happy to announce that yesterday, a little belatedly, this drive officially kicked off.  It will be running until the 5th of May.

Gonarezhou National Park (Photos: Peter Levey)

In the next six weeks, if you’re a conservationist working in Zimbabwe, we would like to ask you to go to our brand new, easy-to-use, online project portal, register as a user, and add your conservation project(s) to MAPA’s database.  Your project will automatically appear on our publically available Google Earth layer, and searchable online map.

As a little extra encouragement, we’re running a number of other promotions and initiatives as part of this drive. You can find out more about these over at our Zimbabwean focus site, but, just to whet your appetite, here are a few highlights:

  • A free Africa Geographic/Africa Birds & Birding subscription and Tracks4Africa GPS map – just for adding your project!

Every project leader who adds a conservation project (active/completed in Zimbabwe) will receive a free 6-month Africa Geographic/Birds and Birding digital subscription and a Tracks4Africa GPS map for Zambia and Zimbabwe.  Tracks4Africa will also be giving away a free GPS to one randomly selected project.

A big thank you to Africa Geographic and Tracks4Africa for this great sponsorship!

  • Google Geo Tool workshop in Harare!

We will be running a 3-day Google Geo Tool workshop in Harare, from the 3rd-5th of May. At the workshop we will show you how to get the most out of Google Earth, Google Maps, Fusion Tables and other tools for your conservation project.

Learn more and sign up here, if you haven’t already.

  • Google Geo Tool Initiative: maps for your project!

Would you like to see your animal collar tracks animated in Google Earth, create a map of your projects’ activities for your sponsors, share your GIS data with collaborators or create a mini-documentary in Google Earth? Let us know what you would like to do, and we’ll help you do it.

For more information, and to get a few ideas for your own project, head over to our Google Geo tool page.

We can scarcely wait to learn about the real work that goes into Zimbabwean conservation, the issues these conservationists face and the threats they are seeking to address.  In the next six weeks, we’ll be sharing these stories with you as they come in – we’ll be posting to this blog, as well as to our TwitterGoogle+ and Facebook profiles.

If you’d like to learn more about our Zimbabwean conservation focus, head over to the drive’s website.  And if you do any conservation work in Zimbabwe, we hope that you’ll add your project today!


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Google Geo Tool workshop in Zimbabwe!

Posted on March 19th, 2012 in General,Get Involved!,Google Geo Tools,Workshops by Alta

One of the main goals of the MAPA Project is to make conservation more visible. For this reason we marry our project very tightly to both using and teaching tools that can help conservationists visualise and communicate their work, be it to policy makers, the general public, or peers. It is in this spirit that we occasionally put on Google Geo Tool workshops – events where we teach conservationists how to use Google Earth, Google Maps and Fusion Tables to visualise, map and communicate their work.

Google Geo Tool workshop in Harare, 3-5 May 2012

We’re excited to announce that we’ll be running one of these workshops in Harare, from the 3rd to the 5th of May 2012.  You don’t need to be a GIS boffin or tech wiz to attend, only comfortable with using your computer – our workshops are designed for conservation practitioners of all levels of qualifications and assume no programming or GIS skills.

At the training we will introduce you to using Google Earth, Google Maps and Fusion Tables for supporting decision making, increasing public awareness, and creating maps for your conservation project or organisation. We hope to also use this event to tell you more about how you can use the MAPA Project’s conservation map, to showcase Zimbabwean conservation projects (your work!) and most importantly, to meet you!

You can apply to attend here.

Google Geo Tool Initiative: Let us help you visualise your work!

As part of our special focus on Zimbabwe, we will go a step further than just teaching you how to use Google Earth, Maps and Fusion Tables – we’ll actually use these tools to create or help create material specifically for your project. For the next six week, if you’re a Zimbabwean conservationist or working in Zimbabwe, you can tell us what map or visualisation you need and we will either help you to create it or point you in the right direction.

We’ve put together a few examples on our Zimbabwe conservation site specifically to help guide you through the types of projects we can put together for you.  Rembember that we will teach you how to create projects at the workshop, and that there are a wealth of online tutorials available to walk you step by step through creating your own project.  For each of the example project on our site, we’ve pointed you to one or more of these tutorials in case you’d like to have a stab at creating a similar project with your own data.

We’ll bring you more news on the Zimbabwe conservation registry drive, including how and where to add your projects, very soon. Until then, we look forward to receiving your applications for the workshop and hearing about your conservation projects!

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Our latest newsletter: Zooming in on Zim

Posted on March 2nd, 2012 in General,Get Involved!,Google Geo Tools,Newsletters,Workshops by Alta

If you’ve been following our blog, you’ll know that for the last little while, we here at MAPA have had Gonarezhou on our minds. And Mana pools, Kariba dam, Victoria Falls, Matobo Hills….in fact, we’ve been getting downright zesty about Zim. We’re pleased to let you know that this affliction is only going to get worse! Don’t worry; we are still thinking about other conservation projects and places too! Here is our latest newsletter:

The Great Zimbabwe registry

Last week we officially announced the Zimbabwe drive, due to start on the 19th of March.  What is this drive exactly? Simply put, MAPA will be collaborating with Zimbabwean conservationists to build a registry and map of Zimbabwean conservation projects. We’ll also be highlighting issues of concern, organisations who work in Zimbabwe and hope to bring you many great Zimbabwean maps. Visit the drive’s website to find out more, or subscribe to the mailing list if you’d like to get weekly updates via email.

Google Geo: Zimbo style

Last year we put on a number of very popular Google Geo Tool workshops with conservationists from all over Africa. We love doing these workshops, both because we get to equip conservationists with practical skills to communicate their work, and because they allow us to get to know the people behind the work – which can lead down all sorts of exciting roads.

At our last workshop, for example, we were pleasantly surprised to meet the ladies from the Dambari Wildlife Trust, who travelled all the way down from Bulawayo to attend the training in Johannesburg. We started talking; one thing lead to another, and three months later, the Zimbabwe drive was born!

Nicky and Verity

Verity Bowman (far left) and Nicola Pegg (left) from the Dambari Wildlife Trust hard at work at the EWT workshop

It comes as no great surprise then, that our focus on Zimbabwe will include not only a Google Geo workshop or two, but a six-week long initiative where we will help you create your own Google EarthGoogle Maps and Fusion Tables mapping projects.

We’re kicking off the Google Geo part of the drive by starting small:  On the 19th and 20th of March we’ll be running a very personalised workshop in Cape Town, at the University of the Western Cape’s swanky new facilities. The workshop is for anyone in conservation or natural science who works in Zimbabwe, or with Zimbabwean data.

Although we will still teach you to use Google Earth, Maps, Fusion Tables and how to get the most out of MAPA’s conservation map (just like at our regular workshops), this workshop will be highly focused on participants’ own data. In fact, we’d like to be so focused on your work that we’re restricting the workshop to just 10 participants. There are a few spots left, so if you’re interested in attending, let us know soonest by emailing mapaworkshops[at]gmail[dot]com. We’ll follow up on a case-by-case basis.

For those of you who are worried about making it down to Cape Town from Zim – don’t worry, there is (at least) one workshop in Zimbabwe on the cards at the end of the drive, in early May. We’ll tell you more about that, as well as how you can get the most out of the Google Geo Tool initiative, in the next fortnight.

Africa Geographic and Tracs4Africa partner up with us for the Zimbabwe drive

The MAPA Project tells the world about African conservation projects and where they happen and so it seems only right that we should be teaming up with the continent’s premier conservation story-teller and master navigator.

As part of the Zimbabwe drive, Africa Geographic has kindly agreed to hand out a free 6-month digital subscription to their magazine (either Africa Geographic magazine or Africa Birds & Birding) to every organisation that adds a project. On top of that, Tracks4Africa will make sure you get a copy of their GPS maps for Zimbabwe and Zambia, and will also give away a handheld GPS to one randomly-selected participant.

You can learn more about these, and other great incentives over at the Zimbabwe drive website.  A big thank you to Africa Geographic and Tracks4Africa for your generosity!

Registering Rhino Projects

This year, MAPA will be going about populating our conservation map in a number of ways. We’ll be focusing more on countries (Zimbabwe being the current focus, obviously), but also on topics and taxa that span the continent.

As far as conservation topics go, they don’t come much hotter than the current Rhino poaching crisis, and we will be doing our bit by turning our attention to creating a near-complete registry of African Rhino projects, in the very near future.

As an appetiser, we recently put out a “first call” to Rhino conservationists and researchers. There’s much more in the pipeline, so stay tuned!

Remember that you can add your project at any time, whatever your conservation topic or country of residence! If you’re confused about how to get started, here’s a little help.

We’re not only mapping projects!

You may have noticed that we never refer to ourselves by our “full” original name anymore. Whereas we were once mapping Africa’s Protected Areas, we’ve now slightly outgrown our name. However, we do still represent protected areas and other critical habitats on our maps, and we still need your help to get it right!  To learn more about how we threw our name away and how we went about putting protected areas on the map, read our two part blog series here:[part 1][part 2].

Action-packed Autumn

We’ve got some exciting developments lined up for the next three months: We’ll be bringing you revamped project-input screens, new training materials, more Google Geo Tool workshop news, plenty of Zimbabwean conservation maps and hopefully, a more complete African conservation map!  For updates and news, follow us on TwitterGoogle+ or Facebook.

We’ll see you at the end of May.  Until then, a big, big thank you to all our friends, supporters and collaborators. This project wouldn’t exist without you!


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The Zimbabwe Conservation Registry drive gains momentum

Posted on February 24th, 2012 in Featured Conservation,General,Get Involved!,Google Geo Tools,Workshops by Alta

What if there was an easy way you could easily find out what work other conservationists in your field were involved in? What they were doing to address the same problems you have? Who were funding them? Who they were collaborating with? What if your project could be visible to others in your field? A public that could contribute? Grant-making bodies that could fund your work?

For the past two years, we here at MAPA have been building just such a tool with our online project registry and map. It’s been showing great potential and we’ve had wonderful encouragement from conservationists from all over Africa, but we also know that it will ultimately only really be useful if enough African conservationists are represented on it. But Africa is a big place! And so we’re tackling this enormous task one country at a time!

A few weeks ago, we told you about our Zimbabwe Conservation Registry drive, an initiative that will see the MAPA Project working with conservationists in Zimbabwe to achieve just such a registry and map for this country of Miombo woodlands, mighty waterways and majestic wildlife.

Thanks to encouragement from the many Zimbabwean conservationists we’ve been in contact with since then, and a generous partnership with Africa Geographic and Tracks4Africa, we can now officially announce that this drive will take place between the 19th of March and the 30th of April 2012. We can scarcely wait!

So what will the Zimbabwe registry drive entail?

The main thing we’ll ask participating individuals and organisations to do is to add an online “project profile” for each of their projects.  If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll know that anyone can do this do this already. However we’ve been working on more user-friendly input screens to make adding projects even easier and will be making these available just before the start of the drive, together with updated help materials and increased support.

During the drive, we’ll also be supporting conservationists with more ways to make Zimbabwean conservation more visible. Generally, we’ll be updating protected areas and critical habitats on our conservation map. Specifically, we’ll be offering workshops to teach conservationists how to use the MAPA tool for their own organisations, as well as how to use tools like Google Earth, Google Maps and Fusion Tables to highlight and communicate their own data, and the issues they care about. We’ll be going one step further and even help them create these visualisations.

But we don’t want to give too much away! More news on these initiatives soon!

Gifts from Africa Geographic and Tracks4Africa

To make it a little more appealing to go to the trouble of adding a project, our partners at Tracks4Africa and Africa Geographic are offering a few nice incentives to every organisation which loads a project:

  • Every organisation which loads one or more projects will be able to download the latest Garmin compatible GPS map for Zimbabwe & Zambia for free, from Tracks4Africa. It’s a routable map, with 38,000km of roads and over 5,000 points of interest.
  • MAPA, T4A and Africa Geographic will also be doing their best to publicise this effort and give your projects some exposure.

Interested? Follow along!

We’ll be talking a lot more  about the Zimbabwe drive in the coming weeks. If you’re interested in following along, or participating, here are some ways that you can keep abreast of developments:

  • We’ll be sending out a more-or-less weekly email with updates, news and information to our Zimbabwean mailing list. Sign up here, if you’d like to join it! You’ll receive more or less one email a week until the end of April.
  • We’ll be using our social media platforms to make new announcements too and undertake to use these platforms to highlight your efforts by re-tweeting, re-posting and re-sharing – so follow us on TwitterGoogle+ or Facebook.

A big thank you to all the Zimbabwean conservationists who have already weighted in to make this initiative possible.  A special thank you to our friends at the Dambari Wildlife trust, and our partners at Africa Geographic and Tracks4Africa. We certainly couldn’t do any of this without you!


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MAPA newsletter: Towards a more complete conservation map

As the southern hemisphere spring makes way for the South Easters, sweltering heat and thunderstorm skies of African summers, we look back on the last three months to find a more complete picture of African conservation slowly emerging on our map as it sprouts more and more points of conservation interest. Here is our latest newsletter.

Important Bird Areas are on the map!

Given limited resources,  conservation triage requires that we favour some areas over others in order to make sure we conserve the most important places on the planet, and as much biodiversity as possible.  However, determining where these critical areas are can be tricky and costly, and so, in the absence of perfect ecological knowledge,  biologists have to look to taxa that can be relied on to reflect  the overall biodiversity and ecological value of a particular area.

As a generally well-studied, often well-travelled, ubiquitous taxa found in nearly every habitat on earth, birds are considered to be particularly good at being such indicators.  Areas that are important to the conservation of birds are thus likely to be important to other biodiversity too, which is one of the reasons we are particularly pleased that all 1218 African Important Bird Areas can now be found on our conservation map.  Read more here.

MAPA in Africa Geographic

Africa Geographic has surely set the gold standard for relating African conservation stories to the public and this would be reason enough for us to be happy about being featured in this magazine.  However, our spread in their November edition is also significant in that it speaks to one way we hope our map will be useful to conservation, namely to connect environmental journalists with conservation and wildlife stories that need the public’s attention.

Africa Geographic has kindly made the article available to us, so you can read more about our (short) history and hopes for the future by viewing the PDF here.

Working for Water projects infest South Africa

In the 17 years that the Working for Water programme has been running, this massive effort has received international praise for its innovative approach to the eradication of invasive alien plants. The programme has provided more than 20,000 people from marginalised communities with jobs, and runs 321 projects countrywide, spanning more than 150,000 land clearing units (NBALs) totaling more than a million hectares.


All 321 of these projects, as well as the 150,000+ NBALs have now been added to MAPA’s conservation map.  Each clearing unit contains information on targeted species, money spent and jobs created for that specific area, information only available in GIS files housed at the Working for Water offices until now. Currently the clearing units are only downloadable by province, via the “footprint” tab on the Google Earth layer, but we look forward to bringing you smaller, more manageable NBALs for individual projects, as well as more Working for Water news, very soon.

Google Geo Tool workshop in Johannesburg

In an attempt to take our map to Africa’s conservation community, teach them how to get the most out of it, and equip them with more tools to visualise their efforts spatially, MAPA has put on a number of Google Geo Tool workshops this year.  Most recently, we found ourselves in Modderfontein, Johannesburg where, together with the Endangered Wildlife Trust, we hosted more than sixty conservationists from as far afield as Kampala and Bulawayo at two back-to-back three day workshops.  Read more about our jolly to Jozi in this blog post.

Sticking with the Endangered Wildlife Trust…

From it’s humble beginnings as a tiny nonprofit  ran from conservation legend Clive Walker’s garage in 1973, the EWT has grown into one of the most well-respected conservation organisations on the continent.  Today, the red and white cheetah pawprint is synonymous with on-the-ground-conservation action addressing some of Africa’s most pressing conservation issues.  There are more than 70 of these projects across Africa, and, as of last month, you can find them all on the searchable conservation map, or on our Google Earth layer.  We hope you enjoy exploring!

Special focus on Zimbabwe

To say that Zimbabwe has had a tough time politically is a little bit like saying that Nandos ads tend to elicit reaction. However, despite the challenges it faces, Zimbabwe’s conservation community is alive and well, and doing great work. In the coming few months, with the help of our friends at the Dambari Wildlife Trust and other Zimbabwean conservation organisations, one of our main focuses will be to get a comprehensive inventory of Zimbabwe’s conservation efforts up on the map. If you can help us with this task, please get in contact!

On that note, we sign off for this quarter. For more news and updates, follow us on Twitter, Facebook or on our brand new Google+ page!


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