Throwing our name away: How Mapping Africa’s Protected Areas became just MAPA

Posted on January 27th, 2012 in General,Get Involved! by Alta

(This is Part 2 in our two part series on how we added protected areas to our conservation map. Read Part 1 here).

In late 2008, our small organisation embarked on a logistically ambitious, but conceptually simple mission: visit Africa’s major protected areas, map everything inside them, and make it all available online. The parks we were looking for were those which fall into the category of ‘National Park’ and we estimated that there were about 500 of them.  Unsurprisingly, this is why we called ourselves MAPA – Mapping Africa’s Protected Areas.

In late 2009 with a lot of technical help from Google Earth Outreach, we released our first version which has been incrementally improving ever since.

Quite quickly we realised that while parks and reserves are interesting in themselves, their real value is best seen in the context of associated unprotected land and conservation projects.  So we adapted our database and today we map blogs, points of interest, critical habitats and projects.  Within a couple of years we had worked our full name into retirement!

But Protected Areas remain the central pillar around which Africa’s conservation effort is wrapped and it is worth remembering how difficult it was in the early days to even decide which ones to map.

There is no standard designation for parks across Africa, and many official records are hopelessly out of date.  Initially, MAPA used published sources, like the World Database on Protected Areas, to create a list of parks to map.  That list – certainly incomplete, and sometimes just wrong – was then refined over time.

Most countries in mainland Africa have been visited by MAPA volunteers over the last three years.  While preparing for those trips, we interacted with wildlife authorities, NGOs and conservationists who amended our initial list on a country by country basis.  This nearly always made the list longer.

Secondly, volunteer mappers made it their business to search out reserves that were not on the list. These were often small sanctuaries and private reserves.

Thirdly, we have been lucky to be given data by third parties.  None has been bigger than Tracks4Africa’s entire parks dataset, the product of GPS submissions by thousands of travellers.

So, although we have never had the capacity to research every single protected area, we do think that the vast majority of the ‘important’ ones are on the MAPA layer.  Almost every park and reserve has associated GIS data, usually a boundary, often a road network, sometimes, trails campsites and other infrastructure.

Have we got it all right?  Not by a long shot.  Users of the layer regularly criticise the content of the park ‘bubbles’ in Google Earth and we sincerely welcome that.  There are certainly other important protected areas that are still missing.  We are keenly aware that MAPA does not reflect enough Marine Protected Areas, for example.

Our mission is to improve the quantity and quality of the information available for parks and reserves by ‘Mapping Africa’s Protected Areas’.  We may no longer use that name but it’s still a critical job! We are continuing to do this ourselves; for example, expect to Zimbabwe’s protected area coverage to improve over the next few mons as we concentrate on that country.

However, there are many of you out there who know much more about ‘your’ protected areas than we do. Our mission is no longer conceptually contained, and the map no longer belongs to us. It simply cannot work without your help.

  • Can you see a protected area that is missing, or do you a private one that you would like to add? Let us know.and we will get onto it.
  • Is there a mistake in an information bubble? Comment on it, or correct it.
  • Do you run a conservation project? Add it!

We’re excited about what a dynamic, visible record of African conservation areas and actions can mean to the practice of conservation in Africa, and ultimately, African biodiversity…but we will need your help to create it.

- Posted by March Turnbull and Alta De Vos


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Mapping Zimbabwe’s Conservation Efforts

Posted on January 20th, 2012 in General,Get Involved! by Alta

In our last newsletter, we announced that MAPA, with the help of the Dambari Wildlife trust and a few of our other friends, is embarking on an effort to focus some of our mapping on Zimbabwe specifically. Our hope is that, by the middle of 2012, we’ll have a near-comprehensive inventory of Zimbabwe’s conservation efforts up on the map.

We are now getting ready to launch into action on this drive, and you can expect a very exciting announcement from us on this topic within the next month.

In the meantime, we’re going to need your help to make sure that we don’t leave out anyone that should be on the map.  Thanks to the help of our friends at Dambari we’ve already got an impressive list  going, but we want to make sure we’re not missing anyone. Do you know anyone active in a conservation project in Zimbabwe?  Who should we be adding to the list? Are you doing some work in Zimbabwe?  If you think we should know about anyone or any particular project, fill in this short form (this is for internal use only – we promise we won’t distribute anything) or simply tell us by email.

Please help us get Zimbabwean conservation on the map! If you would like to be notified via email about updates for the “Mapping Zimbabwe” drive, you can sign up for that here.


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How we added protected areas to the map: part 1

Posted on December 19th, 2011 in General,Get Involved! by Alta

Building an accurate, up-to-date map of African protected areas is no mean feat.  Different designations mean different things in different countries, deproclaimed areas aren’t always removed from country datasets, protected area websites may be dated or non-existent, and lets not even get started on boundaries.  So how do we do it, then? The short answer is: we don’t.

When MAPA released our African conservation map, it only comprised a “skeleton” of protected areas (as well as critical habitats and projects).  The idea was that this “skeleton” would be the foundation on which local conservationists and an interested and knowledgeable public would build by contributing their own specialist knowledge. We hoped that this would, in time, result in an accurate, up-to-date and well-maintained map.

But how did we go about assembling this skeleton?  We’ve focused a lot on projects this year (and will continue to do so into the new year), but in this two-part blog post we’ll shed some light on how we went about creating the network of protected areas you see on the map. We’ll explain which protected areas were added, and why, where we got our data from and how we went about populating the information bubble you see appear when you click on a green-hand icon.

In part 1, we focus on the “wildlife” tab in the information bubbles. We’ll focus on the spread of protected areas and the displayed dataset in part 2.

Where did we get our wildlife information from?

When you click on a protected area’s wildlife tab, you’ll typically see a number of species names and linked thumbnail images.  Each of these image thumbnails click through to more information on a particular species, and many link through to ARKive species fact sheets. If you’re not familiar with ARKive, I encourage you to check out their website and explore their incredible library of broadcast-quality wildlife videos and images.

The “wildlife” tab wasn’t designed to be a complete species list, but rather a place where the animals and plants threatened with extinction (IUCN Red List status “vulnerable”, “endangered” or “critically endangered”) or particularly characteristic of a park or reserve, are highlighted.

We used a variety of sources,  including protected area websites, to decide which species should be listed for different protected areas. However, for some protected areas park-specific information was very thin on the ground – particularly for parks and reserves in West-, Central- and North Africa.  For most of these areas, we reverted to the protected area reports compiled by the EU’s Joint Research Commission as part of their Assessment of African Protected Areas information project.  These reports, in short, draw on continent-wide datasets and methodologies to provide indices, species lists and other relevant information for 741 of Africa’s protected areas.

The species lists in this assessment comprise mammals, birds and amphibians, drawing records by matching geographic species ranges (obtained from sources like the African Mammals Databank, the IUCN Global Amphibian assessment and BirdLife International) with protected area locations. As it is impossible to have perfect information on all species and where they occur from direct observation, these geographic ranges are often arrived at by using predictive mathematical models.  Although critical to our understanding of where animals are relative to critical habitats, protected areas, and threats, modeled ranges will very rarely match actual ranges exactly.  However, for our purposes, it does provide a more global (or in this case, continent-wide) picture that can subsequently be improved on a case-by-case basis by local experts.

So how can you improve the map?

On every bubble (like the Okapi Faunal Reserve example shown below) there are three links at the bottom: “Submit Photos”, “Add Comment” and “Send Corrections”.

When you click on any of these links, an email form will appear, asking for your name, email and comment, correction or photograph.  You may also choose to submit a comment or correction anonymously.  Although we will follow up every reasonable comment, it would help if you add in a justification for your comment, like a reference to the information you’ve amended.

What if I have a complete species list for a protected area?

The “wildlife” tab isn’t the only way we can display species information inside a bubble.  As the map is meant to be a conservation portal, it was designed to be very link heavy. If you’re aware of a website with good information on a specific area’s wildlife, you click on “Add Comment” and suggest that we add this link to the bubble. Depending on the nature of the link, it will either appear at the bottom of the bubble, or in the “Media” tab.

Is this the only way I can edit protected areas?

What if you have a lot more information on a protected area? Can you go and edit it yourself? Can you add a protected area to the map? We’ll write about these topics, as well as how we went about choosing which protected areas to the map, and where we got the roads and boundaries from, in part 2 of this series.

If you’d like to comment on this blog post, do get in contact. You can do that either by emailing us directly, by commenting on our Facebook or Google+ pages, or by submitting a comment via any of the content bubbles, or from our back-end.  We’d love to hear your thoughts!


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Mining & Making Maps: MAPA winter newsletter

Spring has set in in the southern hemisphere and here at MAPA we’re suitably excited about some budding new developments.  Here is our latest newsletter:

A searchable map of conservation actions and areas in Africa

In our ongoing quest to make conservation more visible and accessible, we set ourselves the task this year to, amongst other things, make it easier to find information about protected areas and conservation projects in Africa. We also wanted to find more ways that conservation scientists and practitioners could use the MAPA project database and conservation map for their own benefit.

So it was with great excitement that we released the first version of a searchable, browser-based map to compliment our existing Google Earth layer to a small group of test users last month.  After fixing some bugs and making a few changes, we are even more excited to make a this map publically available as of today. Go to to start exploring!

We’ll tell you more about the map and how you can use it for your organisation or project in a separate blog post, but, in the meantime, don’t be shy to share your thoughts and suggestions.  We take these very seriously and consider each and every one!

Adding projects just got a little easier

The map of African conservation is only ever going to be as useful as the contribution from the conservation community is strong. We’ve tried to make it intuitive and easy to add a project, but we also know that a little guidance can go a long way. If you want to add your project, but you’re unsure about how to go about it, have a look at this video, and look out for more help material and tips coming your way in the coming month.

If you’ve added a few projects, and would like to have your efforts highlighted further, let us know.  We could add your organization’s efforts to featured conservation series – have a look at some of the programmes and projects highlighted so far.

Making many meaningful maps

It’s so much easier to communicate conservation challenges and efforts when one has a visual representation of the environmental context within with these take place.   Here at MAPA we’re very fond of Google’s Geo tools not only because it provides just such a visual platform, but also because it comes with really easy-to-use tools that can be used to add other layers and perspectives to that platform to guide understanding about pressing issues and activities.   Our map is one such annotation, but there are also many other ways that these tools could be utilised to make conservation more visible.

For this reason we decided to compliment what we do with the MAPA database and map with hands-on Google Geo tools workshops for conservation practitioners.   Not only do these workshops offer us an opportunity to connect and collaborate with the scientists, managers and environmentalists that look after Africa’s priceless natural heritage, but they allow us a way to help visualise conservation far beyond what we can do with our map alone. And they also happen to be quite fun.

After a fortnight of slightly experimental and (we think) successful workshops in Cape Town and Stellenbosch earlier this year, we found ourselves travelling to Arusha, Tanzania in June to run more of these trainings as a side-event to the ATBC/SCB Africa conference.   Read more about our time in Tanzania and, if you reside in the northern regions of South Africa, look out for an announcement later this month …

Google Geo tools series

In the short time that we’ve been running Google Geo tools workshops, we’ve picked up on particular topics that a lot of participants have an interest in or difficulty with, and as part of an effort to follow up with these participants, we’ve started a new (more or less) fortnightly series on our blog.

We superficially touched on using short, simple Google Earth tours in the first blog post in this series and two weeks ago wrote about using Google Earth without an internet connection in publications and presentations.  Look out for a blog post on GPS collar track data next week and more on teaching Google Earth to others in your organisation and using Fusion tables to share data sets later this quarter.  Are there any pressing topics you would like to read about? Suggest one, and we might just write about it.

More memories of our mapping missions

We’re no longer driving around Africa’s protected areas, but we do still have plenty of memories to share.  We add new albums to our Facebook page from time to time and we’ve been adding slideshows to various protected areas on our Google Earth/browser-based map, which we’ve started to highlight on our blog.

Richard Hugo getting some high-tech directions in Angola

To celebrate the end of our mapping expeditions we’ve put together a bumper slideshow of some of our volunteering adventures from across the continent.   We leave you with these memories until next quarter!


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How to put your project on the map

Posted on August 25th, 2011 in General,Get Involved! by Alta

As we’re counting down the days to the release of our searchable browser-based map, we’re  getting more and more excited about playing a smaller and smaller part in telling the story of conservation in Africa.  We’ve always intended the map to be a pinboard of conservation pinned by conservation practitioners and it’s not really our place to tell your stories – our job is to make it easy for you to do that.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be posting a variety of articles and videos to help you do just that. We’ll show you how to add content and contribute to the map, how to add affiliated organisations, species information pages, publications, popular articles, datasets ,  kml/kmz files, and YouTube videos.  We’ll teach you how to categorise your project properly, how to extract information from the searchable map and how to create your own custom maps from that.

But first things first.  This week we show you how to add your project(s) to the MAPA Google Earth map (and the forthcoming searchable browser-based map).  The YouTube video (below) is five minutes long, and will instruct you how to register as a user,  add a project title, paragraph, a picture or two, your contact information and your web details.

We’d love to know how we can make it easier for you to add your project.  Let us know what you do and don’t like about this video, the current process for adding a project, and tell us what help material you would like to see.  We’re all ears!


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A searchable catalogue of conservation in Africa

Posted on August 5th, 2011 in General,Get Involved!,New Content by Alta

Back in the days when MAPA still stood for “Mapping Africa’s Protected Areas”, we simply wanted to create a place where Africa’s major national parks could be visible. So, with some help, we created a map on Google Earth were you could go and find that information, view videos for parks, read articles and blogs and learn about some of the work going on in the area. We added critical habitats, like biodiversity hotspots and endemic bird areas into the mix, and finally added projects as well, because we believed that the real conservation lies not in areas, but in actions.

That left us with a bit of a problem. There was no way we could find and maintain information on conservation actions in Africa – and it wouldn’t be the right thing to do by conservationists anyway. So right at the outset, we decided to let conservation practitioners tell their own stories and add their own projects.

Pretty soon we realised that if we were to succeed in providing a platform that conservationists used to build a library of conservation actions, we would have the opportunity to do something really special with the map.  Making conservation visible was a valuable thing to do, but what if  that information was accessible too? What if conservation practitioners could easily find what other conservation practitioners were doing, if conservation scientists could find which conservation actions, threats, targets and tools were being addressed, and where?  What if funders and journalists could find out about the people they were interested in funding and writing about, and if interested citizens could see what projects were being done in their communities?

To do get to that point, two things needed to happen: conservation projects needed proper categorisation, and the catalogue needed to become searchable.  We’ve been telling you for some time about the former (we’ll keep improving that in the coming months), but today we’re very excited to announce that a searchable browser-based map is being pre-released to a small group of test users.

The information on the map is exactly the same as that on the Google Earth layer, but, unlike the Google Earth map,   is searchable and browser-based (so you don’t need to have Google Earth installed). Another feature that we’re very excited about is the ability to download results (as a CSV file) and the ability to create custom layers using the KML generator (just like the Skeppies, African Conservation Trust and ADU layers that we published in the last month). We’ll tell you more about these features when we release the map publically.

Before we can do that, though, we need all the input we can get! Would you like to help us refine the map into a useful tool for conservation? Just click here to register – we could always use another opinion!

Whilst we’re very excited about releasing a searchable map of conservation in Africa, the tool will only ever be as good as the underlying information. The map can’t be complete without your project – if you haven’t pinned it on the map yet, why not give it a go?  It’s free, and although you can add videos, articles and kml files and various other categories of information, all you need to get it on is a paragraph and a picture.  So help build a map of conservation in Africa, and add your project today!

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Featured Conservation Series: Digital Biodiversity week at the Animal Demography Unit

Posted on July 28th, 2011 in Featured Conservation,General,Get Involved! by Alta

This week, we’re featuring the projects of the Animal Demography Unit in our “featured conservation” series. In South Africa, and internationally, the ADU is synonymous with citizen science. These days, citizen science projects are taking off all over the place, facilitated by a suite of new technology that makes it so much easier for amateur naturalists to participate en masse to help scientists understand the world around us. But twenty years ago, when the ADU first started collecting data using this approach, it was truly pioneering. This year, the ADU is celebrating their 20th birthday, and as part of the celebrations they are hosting two Digital Biodiversity weeks – this week being the first of those.  Prof. Les Underhill, director of the ADU, explains what digital biodiversity week is – and how you can get involved:

“We have a chain of events lined up to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the ADU this year. One of our main focuses is a celebration of the participation and involvement of citizen scientists in building our digital biodiversity databases, totalling some 15 million records. The objective of our “digital biodiversity week” is to give all our citizen scientists a chance to become a community with the objective of collecting and submitting as much biodiversity data as we are able during the week. The winter biodiversity week runs from Saturday 23 July to Sunday 31 July, so it includes two weekends. There will be another in early summer, which will span the actual date of the 20th anniversary. The dates for the summer digital biodiversity week are 29 October to 6 November.

We want to try to involve as many of our existing citizen scientists as possible. We want to recruit new people to our citizen science team. We want to collect as much biodiversity data as possible: so we will try to count the total number of records entering the various databases, and try to determine the total number of different species we record. We want to encourage Team Citizen Science.

We would be delighted if our citizen scientists participated in more than one project, and especially if they participated in one they had not been involved in before. So we want our bird atlasers to participate in VIMMA, the Virtual Museum for Mammals, our bird ringers to take pictures of weavers’ nests for PHOWN, PHOtos of Weaver Nests, and our CAR counters to give bird atlasing a try, etc. We particularly want to grow awareness and participation in the growing family of virtual museums.

This is also a great opportunity to try to expand the citizen science team. The best way to do this is to invite someone new to join you atlasing, ringing, counting, virtual museuming, and to show them the project protocols – for example, exactly how to go about bird atlasing.

Ultimately, the goal of all the data collection is to have impact on biodiversity conservation. The wealth of data and information contributed by our citizen scientists, collated and curated at the ADU, and analysed by our students and staff and by many other people, has improved biodiversity conservation in southern Africa. Our 20-year celebrations honour you, the citizen scientist. Thank you for your on-going support from all of us at the ADU. Together we are making a difference!”

For more about the ADU, and how you can get involved, search their virtual museums, or view some of their many great maps, visit their website. You can also download their projects for viewing in Google Earth.

Click here to see the ADU’s Projects in Google Earth!


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Thoughts on our Tanzanian trainings

Posted on July 24th, 2011 in General,Get Involved!,Google Geo Tools,Workshops by Alta

Conservation Science is not a simple discipline.  Conservation Projects usually involve a great diversity of stakeholders and require multi-disciplinary collaboration if they have any chance of effectively addressing conservation targets.  A key factor in such a complex environment is the ability to communicate ideas, issues, data and solutions between these stakeholders and collaborators.  It’s lucky, then, that visualising this information needn’t be a complicated affair at all – provided you have the right tools!

Equipping conservation biologists with some of these tools was the biggest reason we were out in Arusha, Tanzania, a little over a month ago, attending the joint meeting of the Society for Conservation Biology’s Africa section and the Association of Tropical Biology.

Our aim was to introduce these scientists and conservation practitioners to the MAPA Project, and, whilst we were at it, teach them how to use the Google Geo tools that have served us so well to highlight important issues and datasets in their own projects.

During the conference, we hosted several lunch-time demonstration sessions.  In these, we introduced participants to the different Google Geo tools on offer,  the basics of making maps with Google Earth, talked about visualising GPS, GIS and tabular data in Google Earth and Fusion Tables, and introduced them to Google Map Maker. In the afternoons, we answered questions and brain-stormed specific problems and applications with some of the participants.

Participants from the Jane Goodall Institute work through an exercise in the two-day practical workshop.

The real fun started after the conference though, as we hosted about twenty (mostly Tanzanian) conservation practitioners for two days of hands-on training at the Mount Meru hotel. We used most of the first day to get familiar with Google Earth, before delving into topics such as Google Map Maker, Narrated toursGIS &GPS data,  Fusion Tables and  Open Data Kit on a busy second day.  All too soon it was time to say goodbye.

We went to Arusha to teach conservation biologists about visualising information on a map (ours, or their own, or both), but, in truth, we were probably the ones who came away with the learning experience!

We’d like to keep learning and teaching, and in the spirit of making African conservation more visible and accessible, will be writing up a few posts with real-world examples of how you can use Google mapping technology in your day-to-day work – and how you can add this into your MAPA Project bubble, of course (where appropriate).

We’re planning to run a post every fortnight, and have a few planned based on some of the feedback we received from this and previous workshops.  However, we’d like to make sure that we write about the topics that you’re interested in – so we’ll need you to tell us what you would like to hear about! You can let us know by submitting your topic using this short form. We’ll choose a selection of suggestions for the series.

In the meantime, here are the posts that we already have on the cards (one has already been posted):

  1. Tanzanian tracks & tours. In this blog post we looked very briefly at how you can use narrated Google Earth tours to guide the way your audience engage with your story. Read it here.
  2. Google Earth unplugged:  using material you’ve created in Google Earth offline and in presentations.
  3. GPS collar data and GPS tracks: mapping and animating tabular collar data and GPS tracks in Google Earth.
  4. Using Fusion Tables to host your data online and how to share this with colleagues and collaborators.
  5. Mapping it forward: Teaching your colleagues and students how to use Google mapping tools.

If you’re a bit nervous of diving into mapping and visualising your information using the Google Geo tools, we suggest that you start out by reading these two blog posts (part 1, part 2) by Google Earth Outreach.  We’ll keep you updated about training opportunities on this blog, and on our Facebook and Twitter accounts, but if you’re keen to get started, there is great material to guide you step by step along the way on the Google Earth Outreach tutorial page. There is no need to wait for us!

As for Arusha – we were absolutely overwhelmed by the friendly reception we received – thank you to everyone who made us feel so welcome. We’re also hugely indebted, as always, to Google – a big, big thank you to Google Earth Outreach for making this outing possible by co-sponsoring the workshops and to Jacqueline Rajuai from the Google Kenya office who hopped across the border to help run the sessions.  Asante Sana!

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South Sudan: Great migrations and huge challenges

Posted on July 11th, 2011 in General,Get Involved!,New Content by Alta

It’s not often that we get to announce new content for the  “country” category on the MAPA layer, but that’s exactly what this week’s post is about.  On Saturday, South Sudan became Africa’s 54th state, amidst hopeful celebrations and more solemn expressions of concern about the myriad of challenges now faced by this poverty-stricken, war-ravaged country.

From an environmental point of view, one key challenge the new South Sudanese government will have to address is the preservation of it’s miraculously  intact wilderness areas.   As it happens, South Sudan holds a very special place in the history of African conservation.   It was here that the proposed de-gazettement of the White Nile/Sobat game reserve first catalysed the formation  of the Society for the Preservation of the Wild Fauna of the Empire (today Fauna & Flora International) in 1903. Together with other conservation organisations, this society would be instrumental in lobbying colonial governments to establish Africa’s first national parks, and many historians consider it’s formation the start of the conservation movement in Africa.

Before the first outbreak of civil war, the vast South Sudanese savannah and expansive Sudd wetland – Africa’s largest –  harboured a great diversity and abundance of large mammals, including hippo, elephant, eland, Mongalla gazelle, zebra, lion, leopard, oryx, and white-eared kob.  But could these animals survive 22 years of civil war? Biologists had little hope – early reports didn’t look promising, and other countries that suffered decadal civil wars, like Angola and Mozambique, had seen their wildlife populations decimated during these conflicts.

So it was with great delight then, that National Geographic explorer-in-residence Mike Fay, and WCS conservationist Paul Elkan, in taking to the air to do a post-war wildlife survey in 2007, re-discovered a wildlife migration spectacle to rival that of the Serengeti.  The discovery generated much excitement among the conservationists, and in the international media, but there was also no denying that some populations were indeed greatly affected by the war, and that an outbreak of peace offered just as many challenges as opportunities.

Watch the two YouTube videos below to hear Paul Elkan explain the intricacies and wonders of the migration, and some of the challenges faced looking ahead.

Here at MAPA, we’re hoping to show the South Sudanese conservation story as it unfolds, but we’ll need your help! We added a new country to our layer (download it here, if you don’t have it already) on Saturday, and from here you can explore South Sudan’s national parks, watch YouTube videos like the ones above, and read articles that tell a story of  a hidden paradise of promise and uncertainty.  However, you will also notice a great scarcity of conservation projects in the region– of course there have been few organisations active in South Sudan in the past decades, but we’re sure that there are people doing great work out there – and we’d really like to feature you.

If you’re a researcher or conservation practitioner working in South Sudan, please add your project to the map! Simply go to this page, register as a user, and start adding your information. Your project will be on the map within 48 hours of you activating it.   If you don’t have a project, but are knowledgeable about a specific area,  please have a look at the map and let us know if there is anything you would like to change, either in the “add a comment” section of the protected area bubbles, or by emailing us. We’d like to see a map that represents the conservation effort in South Sudan and we welcome any effort to help us do so!

If you’d like to see more content on South Sudan for viewing in Google Earth,  be sure to turn on the “UNEP Atlas of our changing environment” in the Global awareness gallery (as shown above) to see imagery of the Sudd wetland.  Also have a look UNEP’s South Sudan environmental database, a rich source of information on both environmental and humanitarian areas and issues of importance, or check out this blog post if you’re interested in mapping efforts in this country of few paved roads!


Skeppies: Funding community-based business for conservation

Posted on July 5th, 2011 in Featured Conservation,General,Get Involved!,New Content by Alta

This blog post is the first in a new series that we will run to highlight some conservation efforts in Africa and some of the content on the MAPA layer. This week we focus on Skeppies, the Succulent Karoo Ecosystem Programme (SKEP) community conservation and development and small grants fund operting in the Northern Cape.  Amanda Bourne, of the Climate Action Partnership, explains more about what Skeppies is, and what it hopes to achieve:

The Skeppies fund provides accessible small scale funding and support to projects in the Succulent Karoo Biodiversity Hotspot with combined socio-economic development and conservation outcomes. The Skeppies projects are small conservation based businesses and community conservation projects and funding supports business skills development, marketing, and building resilience to climate change.

The Port Nolloth Bird Park is one of the initiatives supported in the Skeppies small grants programme.

During its pilot phase in 2007, Skeppies supported 13 projects representing a total of 22 new businesses and providing direct benefits to 109 local people. Since then, Skeppies projects have continued to generate significant numbers of new jobs, raise environmental awareness, and achieve remarkable conservation delivery including the conservation of 5230 hectares of land, the better management of a further 41 461 hectare, and the protection of 236 red-listed plant species. Projects currently supported by the fund include traditional catering businesses, hiking trails, land rehabilitation efforts, environmental education, species protection, and sustainable livestock management.

Ouma Hannah's kookskerm is another community-based business supported through the Skeppies programme.

Since 2009, CitiGroup has provided funding for a selection of Skeppies projects to engage in a business development and mentoring programme aimed centrally at building resilience to climate variability and change. The Succulent Karoo is likely to be hard hit by climate change, experiencing an increase in the frequency and intensity of droughts and floods and a projected surface temperature increase of at least 2 degrees.

Conservation South Africa and the Skeppies project development team are currently working with ten selected projects, all of which have been trained in environmental business development and climate change through a series of workshops and site visits and have been monitoring weather patterns, rainfall, and temperature using specially developed climate diaries since March 2010.

To learn more about the Skeppies projects, download the layer file below to see them in Google Earth, or visit the Climate Action Partnership’s website.

View the Skeppies Projects in Google Earth

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