A call for 3rd party editors

Posted on March 24th, 2010 in General,Get Involved! by Alta

As we mentioned in our newsletter a few weeks ago,  we’re committed to having accurate information on protected areas on the MAPA  Google Earth layer.  Phase one of the project saw many volunteers visiting protected areas in southern and east Africa, and as such we got a little bit of a feel for areas that we were writing about for the layer. Even so, we still got some information wrong, and some protected areas are not as well represented as they should be.  For phase two, we are doing things the other way around: we’re starting with the desktop research and will be following with the on-the-ground mapping, thus providing an even larger initial window for errors to creep in.

The only way that protected areas will be well-represented across Africa is if the stories of these areas are told by people who really know them. A case in point: a few weeks ago we received an email from Dr. Colleen Begg from the Niassa Carnivore project. The Beggs have gone out of their way to add their information on the MAPA layer, despite having very limited internet access. Upon reviewing the information on the MAPA layer,  Dr. Begg immediately noticed some errors on the Niassa National Reserve bubble.  These errors will hopefully be corrected, preferably by staff of the Niassa National Reserve when we publish the next version of the layer.

This post is specifically directed at people like Dr. Begg:  researchers and conservationists actively doing research in parks, park managers, rangers – we’re looking for 3rd party guardians for the protected areas on the layer. People who can adopt an area they know inside out and who can ensure that they are really well represented on the layer.  It doesn’t require a lot of work and will ensure that the MAPA layer moves one step closer to telling the story of conservation in Africa. If you know such a person, or are such a person, please contact us.

Chimanimani National Reserve, Mozambique: Can you help us improve this information?

Chimanimani National Reserve, Mozambique: Can you help us improve this information?

If you are a phase one volunteer, please have a look at the protected areas that you visited and verify that we did it justice on the map. If you have any information to add, any extra or better pictures, any corrections, or can suggest good contacts to be 3rd party guardians, please get in contact.

An update on protected areas

Posted on March 16th, 2010 in General,New Content by Alta

As we mentioned in our newsletter a month earlier, we’re hoping to have all protected areas and critical habitats (areas like biodiversity hotspots, key biodiversity areas and important bird areas) added to the map come June 30 2010. To help us achieve this daunting task we enlisted the help of two new MAPAers: Kath Potgieter and Peter Levey.

Kath’s job is to add protected areas for countries in west, central and north Africa, and Peters’ is to edit these, as well as to edit and revamp content from southern and east Africa. Although this won’t reflect on the public layer yet, we can tell you that Kath has already added 65 parks, nature reserves and game reserves in Sudan, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Congo and Madagascar to the database. She is now busy completing Madagascar. If you live near or are familiar with protected areas in any of these countries, and would like to have a look at the information presented for your area, please contact us. We are always looking for ways to improve the quality of content.

Virunga National park

Peter has also been working to revamp protected area content in phase 1 areas. He’s edited and revamped all countries in southern and eastern Africa save for Ethiopia, parts of Kenya and Uganda.  These three countries should also be completed soon.

As for critical habitats: we are currently busy with major revamps in the way we present these and have been talking with many of the large NGOs to find the best way to represent “their” critical habitat type. We will fill you in with more news soon!

Unfortunately you won’t be able to see any of this content yet, as the public layer is not updated automatically as we add content. In fact, it’s quite a process to get the layer published as a static, public layer  - a task that Google Earth Outreach generously helps us with at present. However, we are working to turn the layer into a “live” one, where updates like new protected areas and projects will appear on a weekly or even daily basis. The next time the layer is “updated” it will be in this format. We’re still some way off getting that right, but please keep adding content or let us know if you would like to “adopt” a protected area that we haven’t represented well.

More news soon.

-          The MAPA team

MAPA in Geographical

Posted on March 3rd, 2010 in General,Media by Alta

Mark Eveleigh recently authored an article on the MAPA project for Geographical

Mark Everleigh

“From somewhere out on the heat-rippled savannah, a harsh cough surprises me. I look up from my laptop monitor into the glare of the sun to see seven lionesses staring at me. They are spread across a rock not more than 70 metres away and have a look of hungry alertness in their amber eyes.

I have been working for more than an hour, feet up on the bullbars of the Land Rover, leaning back comfortably under the soothing heat of Uganda’s highland sun. The lionesses are clearly not stalking me, but I get the impression that they’ve been watching me for quite some time.

One of my primary motivations for coming to the remote Kidepo Valley was to see some of the area’s famous big cats. But apart from a fleeting glimpse of a shadowy pride stealing across the savannah on my first evening, this is my first clear sighting. And now, I have the unsettling impression that the watcher had become the watched; the hunter the hunted.

Kidepo Valley is often described as Africa’s most beautiful national park. Its 1,442 square kilometres of lush green savannah and palm-fringed watercourses nestle among a sensuous curve of steely blue mountains. Kidepo is picture-postcard perfect in a technicolor, widescreen, Lion King sort of way, yet it is almost unknown, and attracts only a handful of tourists. We have come here as part of the MAPA Project (Mapping Africa’s Protected Areas) with the express intention of shining some light on Uganda’s unknown wildernesses…”

Read the full article here