Western Cape workshops fully booked!

Posted on February 21st, 2011 in General,Workshops by Alta

When we first announced our Western Cape  Google Earth & Maps workshops (taking place in Stellenbosch and Cape Town at the end of March), we worried that we wouldn’t fill all the spots, and thought that there was a good chance that all the attendees would come from one or two institutions.

We were pleasantly surprised.

Within ten days of making the announcement we found ourself with a waiting list, and with registrations from individuals from more than forty different organisations, mostly based locally.  On the organising end we were also exceedingly lucky, managing to secure venues to host the workshops in collaboration with the Universities of Cape Town and Stellenbosch.  Our sincerest thanks to the EGS department at UCT and the Conservation Ecology & Entomology department at the University of Stellenbosch for opening their facilities and enabling us to keep these workshops free of charge!

We can’t wait to meet the people who are behind the many great projects and institutions that task themselves with looking after the “Fairest cape in the circumference of the world” (and from further afield) and we are looking forward to helping you visualise and communicate your efforts, problems and ideas.

If you’ve missed the boat, but are still very interested in the workshops, add yourself to the waiting list.  Or if you’re interested in workshops in other areas or at later dates,  please contact us directly.

To get you in the mood, have a look at a few ot the case studies that came out of last years’ workshop, or visit the Google Earth Outreach Showcase to see some examples of how people have used Google Earth & Maps to visaulise important information globally.

We look forward to seeing you in March and April!

Nigeria (again….)

Posted on February 7th, 2011 in General,MAPA expeditions by Administrator

We got caught out by the weather in Nigeria this year and have had to send volunteers back to finish the mapping job that we failed to do at the end of 2010.   There  are two cars making thier way clockwise around Nigeria and they have been on the road for two weeks now.    This is a selection of their mails back to base…..

2 February 2011

Hey March…

We are now in Gashaka Gumpti Park, in the Gashaka Primate Project…lovely site with a very dedicated German Professor Detlev Sommer, which provides us cheap accomodation and 24h solar and Gen electricity (probably the only place in all of Nigeria) so we can keep up with all our data transfer. someone will prob write a blog for you.

Talking of energy supply…we are having a very hard time with both car’s electrics for the last ten days. Two of the three Inverters are not working anymore. Also one of the major fuses for the trunk electricity box in the 105 burnt, fortunately did not hit the freezer, but the split cable for the other plugs. so we only have the main cigarette lighter in the 105.

Greg and Don took the two inverters apart, replaced the fans and did everything possible but they wouldnt start working again. The remaining one is on and off…so at times we can charge our stuff, but we must plan well and can only work on the computers and recharge in shifts, which is sometimes very difficult timewise and when we are bush camping. Some days it does not work at all.

That means, we would not be able to split and store data at the moment …which is not the problem in the next few days, but might become an issue once we go north where we possibly split.

Will tell you about our new plans just now.

So basically, we needed at least one reliable inverter, two would be better. I guess, we can get them in Kano, where we possible will do the car lubrication. If not, we can either wait for the english to bring some good ones from England or we need some flown in from SA or GER.

I read in our two Bradts Guides (Africa Overland and Nigeria) that the BF embassy is in Lagos, not in Abuja…can you please check on the internet if that is correct or not? Thanks.

If so, we would have to go to Lagos, which again we wouldnt but would skip Abuja and cross Nigeria in the North straight through Kamuku and Kainji/Old Oyo to the Benin Border and get Visas at the BF Border. Going to Quaga is not a problem, since we drop Greg and Don anyway.

1 February 2011

Hi March

We are in Afi Drill rnch right now, it took us most of the day to get here. A really incredible place. I have a meeting with the guys here tommorow morning at Eight. there is a man named Peter Jenkins who runs it an knows about MAPA, he is keen and seems to be the main guy for conservation in this region.That is Pandrillus… I’ll keep you upated.

Cercopan is a great place they have an office in Calabar and Rhoko forest, where they do communiy work, have a research forest an have a core protection area. there are maps and they are mainly GPS’d, a woman name Claire has them an a french guy name Sylvan is the man on the ground. He is sending you his processes Garmin files with the polygons of the north and south sections. We can also use the maps that Claire has done. I will email her an link her up to the MAPA team. People here are very keen on the idea, as they shoul be, and its major selling point seems to be the conservation layer, obviously. I’m unsure as yet but what are the possibilities for people linking to the MAPA site etc? i haven’t used this as a pitch yet but my sales pitch is getting very good now ( i mean the project sells itself really, i just smile)

As for the GPS points for the Goodgle datasets, there are not many as these are small areas with a bit of trekking available. No roads, no tracks, no real infrastructure. They dont conserve for tourism. REDD is quite big here, have you been in contact with them? Data is an issue for both of these but just an idea.

So Cercopan is as well mapped by Sylvan and his guys as can be, he will send all his info , land use maps etc, and i will send the maps he gave me when we reach decent internet access. Its really usefull stuff. they were funded by the Sylva foundation. I have never heard of them. I’ll cc you on the mails i send to them for the data.

Otherwise all is good, we are spending the net night here becaue its cheap and we’re getting local info and mapping what we can. We also have to rewire  parts of the 150′s accesory power cable, but we’ll let you know once its all done tom.

An amazing place out here, its heartbreaking that this is what is left though.

Keep well, we’ll keep hammering away and try get some more GPS points for you in actuall protected areas, at the moment we just seem to be driving roads to the place and then finding out that there is no infrastructure there. While Don and I go to twon tom to phone Peter, Greg eand C-baz will map the hell out of this place and wire the cars.

For the blog, our mammal list so far is growing

red flanked duiker

mona monkeys

red capped mangabey( at cercopan sanctuary)

Allans galago

Thomas’ galago

signs of elephants

signs of buffalo

tons of unidentifiable bats

niml densities and visibbility are very low.

birds are a ton, great blue turaco’s , piping hornbills, white thighed hornbill, yellow casque hornbill, african finfoot etc…


28 January 2011

Hi March

After having spoken to Alan Dunn w went to Cross river south, the main tourist gate. We were allowed into the park to camp, under the armed protection of two guards. that’s correct 2. they stayed up all night watching us. No idea why, they did it because they were told to. Great place but it was still in  the buffer zone. As for boundaries, they have a definite boundary which is cleared as a cutline and has beacons on it, IUCN developed it. However no one has GPS’d it that I can find out. Alan Dunn reckons it is a dangerous endeavour, you have o walk the path and apparently there is some local opposition to the line. I have also heard rumours that the line is not really enforced and there is still illegal logging etc… Anyway, boundary aside there is very little road access. We got there, to the camp and did one little track. We tried to split up to save time and costs but it just isn’t feasible or worth it. You drive for a few km and the track ends in a river. there used to be many many tracks and connections through the park, but it is all blocked by trees and the streams are impassable. As it was we reached a dodgy bridge which we didn’t cross as the guide reckons we were too heavy and I agree with him. Anyway, 500m later you reach a river back 3m high. That’s it.

the guides are well educated and keen, we had an excellent little walk with them, full of knowledge and apparently they do treks. Don spent a few hrs with the two guards and got all the info on which roads were “motorable” and which aren’t, not many are motorable. So we have cut our losses and come to Rhoko forest.

This place is definitely needed on the map. Its run by Cercopan, very good and the French manager Sylvan has GPS’s most of the trails etc. there are a number or research projects and we will try get all of the  data. I just need to chat to them about data ownership, but it doesn’t seem like a problem.

otherwise all is good, we are just needing to fix some transformer problems, nothing serious yet, but got only one left that’s working at the moment.

Regarding the further itinerary of Chris and Seb as mentioned in email to team 3, we want to submit our thoughts as well before the guys book their flights. The two of us were discussing a lot on how we could continue and maximize Data gain in these almost 16 days after both guys have left us (provided they still fly in on 15th of March).

Until now we were considering taking the two cars in a convoy to Bamako/Mali and find a safe spot for the one car to be kept for the time until the Englishmen arrive as first line solution.

Re: Ivory Coast…we are hearing different opinions on the situation in the country..some guys saying the rural north will not be a problem since stuff happens in Abidjan while others say white foreign Jeeps might provoke rage anywhere in the country as happened these weeks. To be honest, we both are very keen to see the country, but since there is so much more in that area to be done, we prefer to not take chances and leave Ivory Coast for later unless we can get solid information of some stability in the north.

Please let us know what you think.

keep well, we’ll write a longer mail about the wildlife aspects when we have more charge.


23 Jan 2011

Hi March, we’ve just finished Okumo and are off to Calabar tomorrow. It’s a great little park, it’s definitely being protected and there are good people working here.

Its 72 square miles, however there is no accessible boundary road. We have driven the only road and walked the two major routes and climbed the tree house. They wouldn’t really let us split so the boys are doing some more mapping tom of the one road that takes you to the tree house. I have a map from the head of conservation which we can create a georeferenced polygon from no worries. I have a few easily observable references in a Google image or something that will make it easy to do.

I’ve sent you the track for today, only 3 waypoints, I see Seb has done 20 so I think he wins today’s challenge.

As for info on the park, in our two walks, which is the main form of activity here, very few drives are allowed or done. We saw evidence of forest elephant, no one can give me numbers as a census hasn’t been done. the only estimate I got was of  <15, I’d be surprised if it’s even that many. Similarly we saw evidence of forest buffalo, but a lone animal. We have seen a number of Mona monkeys and are assured that the endemic Nigerian white throated monkey is here too. Birds though are numerous and we’ve seen a bunch, mostly unidentifiable flits through the bushes as we go past. I saw a red flanked duiker and we have seen some bat species. As or herps, geckos and agamas, but I haven’t really been sampling. the forest itself looks pretty good, although it is small, over time it’s been subdivided and subdivided and so now it’s an island in between rubber and palm oil palms. I’m not sure how viable the large animal populations will be in the long term without intense management but as an island of biodiversity it is incredible.

On another note, this is one of the 7 National parks. Yankari is no longer federally controlled and has been downgraded to a nature reserve. It sits under state control, so I will find out when we get there the differences.

they have great facilities here, good people, really good rates… for instance camping is NgN2000 pp, but you can get a room for NgN 5000 if you so wish, they have a beautiful lodge built by a holiday chain ( Mr Hall is the name I got), since the kidnapping problem the National park leases this resort from them, but they are keen to return and Mr Pappilio is here to run it in the meantime, Great old guy from Benin who has told me the ways of the Yoruba’s peoples.

As for the park, there is a main office on the way in with good people but little resources, no digital maps, or maps ( too me 2 days to get a folded A4 sheet from the boss), but the guys running it are well educated and keen. We are obviously and anomaly as we have been the subject of many photos and posed shots. But it’s great. I’ve met the rangers and the head of education, Tourism, research, Game head protection services and the head ranger. all very keen, helpful and happy to help.

So far so good!