Photo Sphere story: The world’s 1000th World heritage site

Posted on November 5th, 2014 in Spotlight on Parks by Administrator

As part of our blog series on African protected areas, we will bring you at least one new “Photo Sphere” story every week. Photo Spheres are 360º panoramic images (think Street View) that can be shared on Google Maps, or with the Views community. Through theStreet View partner programme, more and more remote places are making their way onto Google Street View. Where this is not (yet) the case, Photo Spheres allow the world an immersive view many of Africa’s protected areas.  You can see a selection of Photo Spheres taken in Africa’s protected areas on our interactive story map.

In June UNESCO officially recognized the Okavango Delta in Botswana as its 1,000th World Heritage Site, putting it alongside iconic places such as the Great Barrier Reef, the Grand Canyon, the Taj Mahal, Stonehenge, and the Great Wall, to name a few.

Read more about what it took to get this designation, and why it matters, from National Geographic explorer Steve Boyes.

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Imfolozi Trail: Home of the wild

Posted on October 31st, 2014 in General,Spotlight on Parks by Administrator

This blog extract has been republished from Scott Ramsay’s “Year in the Wild” blog. Scott is a photo journalist who has spent the last year and a half exploring and documenting Southern Africa’s most special protected areas. Read all his “stories of African parks”, illustrated with amazing, award-winning photographs here. In this blog post he explores the complex interplay between wilderness, ecotourism, development and history. Read the full article here, and also check out this article published in the Cape Times on the mining issue.

It didn’t take long for the ancient creatures to show themselves. We had just started the Imfolozi Wilderness Trail, when two white rhinos rose up in a cloud of dust from where they were sleeping in the shade of an acacia tree.

A mother and her young calf, thirty metres from us. Rhinos have poor eyesight, but excellent hearing and smell. The mother could sense the presence of humans. Her ears turned like radars on her head, listening intently. The calf stayed close by her side. Both were clearly nervous.

We were also nervous. Nothing can prepare you for this. Seeing rhinos from the safety of a car in a wildlife reserve is one thing. Being on foot, and coming face to face with these huge prehistoric-looking animals while walking in Africa’s oldest wilderness area is entirely different.

White rhinos are huge, weighing just over two tons, standing two metres tall, and of course, there’s that horn. And rhinos can run faster than the fastest man. Besides, when you’re carrying a 15kg backpack with five days of food and gear, there’s no point in trying to outrun them. Human kebab, anyone?

But our Zulu trails ranger Nunu Jobe calmly gestured for us to walk slowly to the rhinos to get a better view. He had done this a thousand times before – literally. We followed him, placing our feet as gently on the earth as possible.

We walked closer, when another rhino – a huge bull – appeared without warning to the side of us, fifteen metres away.

Continue reading 

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Explore Gombe National Parks through the eyes of Jane Goodall

Posted on October 21st, 2014 in General,Spotlight on Parks by Administrator

In the last few weeks we’ve been bringing you a few “stories of African parks” that have been a little on the somber side. It is of course, important to remember, that African protected areas can also be places of immense wonder.  In today’s post we’re featuring a story that will allow you to experience some of that wonder in Gombe National Park,  through the eyes of someone that knows it intimately: Dr Jane Goodall.  Below is an extract from the Google Latlong blog. You can read the full post here.

In July 1960, Dr. Jane Goodall stepped off the boat in what is now Gombe National Park, Tanzania with a pair of second-hand binoculars and a notepad. She was 26 years old, and was there to observe and record the behavior of chimpanzees in the wild. This summer, after four planes and a boat ride, I took my first (wobbly) steps onto the shores of Lake Tanganyika. I was about to walk the same paths that Dr. Goodall took to do her groundbreaking research into the lives of chimpanzees. And now—thanks to a Google Maps partnership with the Jane Goodall Institute and Tanzania National Parks—so can you.

We were invited to Gombe National Park to capture a record of this historic place, where today the Jane Goodall Institute manages the longest-running chimpanzee research study in the world. It was here that Dr. Goodall first witnessed chimpanzees fishing for termites using a blade of grass as a tool to dig them out of their mounds. Using tools was an act previously believed to be unique to humans. Her observations revolutionized our understanding of chimpanzees—animals that share 98 percent of our DNA—and redefined the very notion of “human.” More than 50 years later, protecting chimpanzees and their habitat is central to the mission of the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI).

Continue reading on the Google Latlong blog

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Rebuilding Kissama: war-torn Angola’s only national park affected by deforestation, but refaunation gives hope

Posted on October 14th, 2014 in Spotlight on Parks by Administrator

In the lead-up to thWorld Parks Congress in Sydney, we are telling (or channeling) stories of African protected areas.  Angola has a lot of sad protected area stories to tell, about war, deforestation, defaunation – both human well-being and ecological health have had their fair share of punishment. However, there are also some signs of hope too. Like in so many parks in Africa, the story of Kissama National park – some (but not all) would argue Angola’s only functioning national park – is a pretty complex one. 

This article, by Fidelis Zvomuya, was published on Mongabay.com in July. You can read the full article here.

The story of Kissama National Park is one of perseverance, vision and disaster in waiting. The only functional national park in Angola, a country wracked by war for decades, Kissama (also called Quiçama) lost much of its wildlife, with that which is left still impacted by poaching and deforestation. However, a project is attempting to bring the park back to life.

Most of the lush forested areas of Kissama National Park occurs in its eastern portion, comprising about 200,000 hectares. Of this forest cover, nearly seven percent disappeared from 2001-2013, according to data from Global Forest Watch.

A 2010 report written by Roland Goetz, Director of the Kissama National Park at Kissama Foundation, raised concern about poaching and illegal harvesting of trees for building material and charcoal production. It underlines the urgent need for mitigation.

. It underlines the urgent need for mitigation. 


Kissama National Park has lost nearly seven percent of its forest cover since 2001. Map courtesy of Global Forest Watch. Click to enlarge. 

In the report, Goetz said Quiçama National Park is at a crossroads. 

“Continuing as we have been is certain death for the park,” he said. “With decisive action to save the park in the next year, the Ministry of Environment can show the international conservation community that Angola in a leader in protecting the biodiversity of the planet.” 

Illegal development is also a major threat to the park, including a housing development called Cabo Ledo and several roads. 

Angola is one of Africa’s most biologically diverse countries, boasting a long Atlantic coastline, dense equatorial forests, rivers thick with mangroves, vast desert expanses, rolling savannah grasslands and high-altitude rocky outcrops. 

Forests still cover 35 percent of Angola, but clearing along coastal regions is massive and has led to desertification as trees no longer exist to hold moisture in the soil. One of the primary drivers behind Angola’s deforestation is the wide use of wood as fuel as 80 percent of Angolans cook food over fire. In addition, timber is often sold and exported illegally.

Read the complete article on Mongabay.com

For more on Angola and other African protected areas, visit our interactive map.

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Seeing the Forest for the Trees: How ‘One Health’ Connects Humans, Animals, and Ecosystems

Posted on October 7th, 2014 in Spotlight on Parks by Administrator

One of the key outcomes of the IUCN World Parks Congress 2014 will be the drafting of a New Social Compact, recognizing the complex social-ecological nature of protected areas, in Africa, and all over the world. For today’s Photo Sphere  story we share an article, written by Wendee Nicole, on the One Health approach to understanding the complex linkages between disease, people and ecosystems.  

You can read the complete article on Mongabay.com
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A gossamer mist settles over the jagged peaks of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, a 318-square-kilometer park on the eastern flank of the Albertine Rift in southwest Uganda. It’s a hard scramble up and down steep ravines of this World Heritage Site, home to 400 of the world’s estimated 880 remaining mountain gorillas. The guide, Omax, radios ahead to trackers who have located the Habinyanja gorilla family. As the eight tourists and their porters catch up, everyone gathers to watch, mesmerized, as two gorillas placidly eat nettles. Without warning, a male gorilla named Kavuyo charges straight toward a middle-aged woman; she holds her ground, her eyes saucers. “He’s a joking one,” Omax says after shooing Kavuyo back. 

Tourists have just one hour to watch the gorillas and must stay seven meters away from the animals, but counting tourists, porters, trackers, and guards, more than 60,000 people visit the park for the gorillas every year, in addition to locals passing through, potentially exposing both species to health hazards from the other. People and great apes are so closely related that infectious agents ranging from common cold viruses to potentially fatal diseases such as tuberculosis can pass between the two. One study found that 30% of park staff and 85% of local villagers admitted to defecating in the park without burying it, and many leave behind soiled trash that can expose the gorillas to parasites, pathogens, and other health threats. 

Read the complete article

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Photo Sphere story: Keeping an eye on Tarangire’s elephants

Posted on September 28th, 2014 in General,Spotlight on Parks by Administrator

As part of our blog series on African protected areas, we will bring you at least one new “Photo Sphere” story every week. Photo Spheres are 360º panoramic images (think Street View) that can be shared on Google Maps, or with the Views community. Through theStreet View partner programme, more and more remote places are making their way onto Google Street View. Where this is not (yet) the case, Photo Spheres allow the world an immersive view many of Africa’s protected areas.  You can see a selection of Photo Spheres taken in Africa’s protected areas on our interactive story map.

There are two African icons that you will almost certainly encounter when visiting Tanzania’s Tarangire National Park: baobabs and elephants. In fact, the Tarangire-Manyara ecosystem, one of the most biodiverse grasslands in the world, by some accounts boast its highest elephant density too (although Botswana has the highest number).

Its not only the ecological landscape that is complex and diverse: the park and it surrounding areas encompasses many of the problems and opportunities so typical of protected areas in this part of east Africa: a complex history of ecotourism and community relations, community displacement on the one hand and development on the other, a high propensity for human-wildlife conflict, and herbivore populations at high risk of poaching.

In response to the current elephant poaching crisis – one that this park has not escaped – TNP management is following other parks in establishing monitoring and protection programmes that uses Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. Announced in September 2014, this project will see a number of UAV camps being established from which operational units (PODS) equipped with multiple aircraft vehicles and communications equipment will be deployed to monitor, identify, follow and eventually deliver suspected poachers to wildlife authorities.

So next time you visit Tarangire, you may see more than just baobabs and elephants…

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Photo Sphere story: The rocks of Robberg: Ancient story-keepers.

Posted on September 18th, 2014 in Spotlight on Parks by Administrator

As part of our blog series on African protected areas, we will bring you at least one new “Photo Sphere” story every week. Photo Spheres are 360º panoramic images (think Street View) that can be shared on Google Maps, or with the Views community. Through theStreet View partner programme, more and more remote places are making their way onto Google Street View. Where this is not (yet) the case, Photo Spheres allow the world an immersive view many of Africa’s protected areas.  You can see a selection of Photo Spheres taken in Africa’s protected areas on our interactive story map.

Since their younger days in the time of Gondwana’s break-up (some 110-130 million years ago), the rocks of Robberg have seen a thing or two. About 120,000 years ago, these cliffs and caves played host to beach-combing “Strandlopers”, subsisting in large part on the shellfish riches of the rocky inter-tidal. Later, when the seas retreated, the rocks kept watch as giant buffalo, alcelaphine antelopes, and other near-mythical herbivores roamed the grasslands of that age. When the seas returned, the rocks welcomed new cave dwellers. With time, various waves of human inhabitants found increasingly sophisticated ways to prosper on the Peninsula. And as they did, the rocks stood guard, both undertakers and scribes of their livelihoods and stories…

For more history on, and pictures from, this magnificent little protected area, read Scott Ramsay’s blog post on his Year-in-the-Wild visit to the Robberg Nature Reserve.

 

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Photo Sphere story: walking into the heart of an African forest

Posted on September 11th, 2014 in Spotlight on Parks by Administrator

As part of our blog series on African protected areas, we will bring you at least one new “Photo Sphere” story every week. Photo Spheres are 360º panoramic images (think Street View) that can be shared on Google Maps, or with the Views community. Through theStreet View partner programme, more and more remote places are making their way onto Google Street View. Where this is not (yet) the case, Photo Spheres allow the world an immersive view many of Africa’s protected areas.  You can see a selection of Photo Spheres taken in Africa’s protected areas on our interactive story map.

Ghana is experiencing one of the worst rates of deforestation loss in West Africa. At its current rate of forest loss, a study estimates that the country could be devoid of major forest cover in less than twenty-five years. Forest protected areas, like Kakum National Park, is thus particularly important for safeguarding species that are increasingly losing their habitat. Unlike most parks in West Africa, Kakum actually receives a lot of tourists, in large part thanks to this canopy walkway, the first of its kind in Africa. The suspension bridge (inspired by the Vancouver’s Capilano) takes visitors into the restless heart of an African forest, a refuge for seven primate species (including the endangered Diana monkey), more than 500 species of butterflies, and about 250 species of birds. The endangered Mona meerkat, Pygmy elephant, Forest buffalo and African civet also occur in the park.

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Ndoki Forest, charmed or cursed? Conservationists admit sustainable logging wilting in naïve chimp habitat

Posted on September 9th, 2014 in General,Spotlight on Parks by Administrator

This article, by Daniel Stiles, was republished from Mongabay.org, under their “ Special Reporting Initiatives (SRI) program “. You can read the original article here

The chimpanzees in Ndoki Forest are termed “naïve”, because they are unafraid of humans. Photo sourced from Wikimedia commons (USAID).

“You come across that crest, and … you’re going from forest that has already been exploited to this kind of no-man’s land… It just felt like you were going into this vast unknown wilderness” – Mike Fay from Eating Apes by Dale Peterson and Karl Ammann. 

Mike Fay, famed explorer and conservationist, said this of the Ndoki Forest in the Republic of the Congo, because up to the early 1990s it was an unknown, primeval wilderness. The map of the area was totally blank: no roads, no habitations, no nothing but giant trees and wildlife, including large numbers of chimpanzees, gorillas, and forest elephants. 

Here, Fay encountered chimpanzees that had never seen humans before, and instead of running off, as chimpanzees who have been hunted do, they examined this new human creature with curiosity. Fay called them “naïve” chimps. 

Fay, former Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) zoologist and now technical advisor to the Gabon national parks’ system, was instrumental in establishing in 1993 what is today the Nouabélé-Ndoki National Park (NNNP). WCS portrays NNNP and the surrounding logging concessions as a great conservation success story. But the story has its critics. 

Read the full story at http://news.mongabay.com/2014/0731-sri-stiles-ndoki-forest-logging-chimp-habitat.html#kA7HUjZPBp2yyhuM.99

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Photo Sphere story: The smoke that thunders

Posted on September 4th, 2014 in Spotlight on Parks by Administrator

As part of our blog series on African protected areas, we will bring you at least one new “Photo Sphere” story every week. Photo Spheres are 360º panoramic images (think Street View) that can be shared on Google Maps, or with the Views community. Through theStreet View partner programme, more and more remote places are making their way onto Google Street View. Where this is not (yet) the case, Photo Spheres allow the world an immersive view many of Africa’s protected areas.  You can see a selection of Photo Spheres taken in Africa’s protected areas on our interactive story map.

Although it is neither the highest, nor the widest, the Victoria Falls is the largest sheet of falling water in the world. Little wonder, then, that its local name, “Mosi-oa-Tunya” (also the name of the National park on the Zambian side of the border) means “the smoke that thunders”. This photo sphere was taken from one of the 16 spectacular viewpoints on the Zimbabwean side of the border, in Victoria Falls National Park. A mist of droplets from the falls creates a nearly permanent rainbow, which greets thousands of locals and international tourists every year.

Revenue from tourists (who also visit for adventure activities) provides a sustainable income for the parks and contributes substantially to the economies of the nearby towns of Victoria Falls and Livingstone, but the parks are not without threats. A few years ago, instability in Zimbabwe threatened the Falls’ tourism economy, and in the last decade or so wildlife crime has forced game reserves surrounding the parks to put up fences, which impedes the natural movement of mammals.

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