Sharing our mapping adventures

Posted on April 23rd, 2011 in General by Alta

Over the last two years, MAPA volunteers have criss-crossed the African continent with their GPSes to map some of Africa’s Protected Areas. During this time these men and women have collected thousands of photographs in many of Africa’s most beautiful and (often) remotest parks,  documenting their adventures, and capturing the stunning (and sometimes sad) scenes and sceneries of their sojourns.

Until recently, these photographs were hidden away and unpublished, but we’re slowly incorporating them in our Google Earth layer – both in the park bubbles and as slideshows which can be downloaded as part of the “click to see more” feature. From this week, you can also view some of our adventures on our Facebook page.

Jip, MAPA has finally embraced social networking, and you can now follow us on Facebook and Twitter.  So far, we’ve only posted a few of our trips – Old Oyo & Kanji Lake in Nigeria, Bicuar National Park in Angola, Murchison Falls in Uganda (shown below), Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique, and Kabira National Park in Burundi. We’ll keep adding more in the coming few weeks, and will also keep adding slideshows to our Google Earth layer.

Life of (your work here)

Posted on April 15th, 2011 in General,Get Involved!,Media by Alta

Yesterday I had the great privilege to attend a question and answer session with Sir David Attenborough at the Kirstenbosch Research centre here in Cape Town.

The session was organised by the Percy FitzPatrick Institute for African Ornithology, largely for students of the Fitz and Zoology department at UCT.  By the time he got to Kirstenbosch, Sir David had been in the country for 24 hours, in which time he had already given a vice-chancellor’s lecture at UCT, was interviewed by Cape Talk radio, and attended several smaller events.

Despite that, he answered questions from the floor with humility, sincerity, humour, and thoroughness, fascinating and educating us with stories and insights from his incredible life. It was an extraordinary occasion indeed for all who attended.

Education is, of course, not something that is new to Sir David, being the grand master of ground breaking natural history documentaries and books that have brought the natural world into our living rooms and hearts and have undoubtedly spawned many a fossil collector, entomologist, mammalogist, ornithologist and conservationist.

So it was perhaps unsurprising that one of the topics that surfaced a few times in yesterday’s discussion was the use of media to convey really important information founded in research and conservation.  The media, Sir David said, has a responsibility to these on-the-ground-practitioners to tell their stories, and share their information and findings with the public.

Even less surprising, then, that Sir David should be the patron of ARKive, an initiative that is doing just that, and one of our earliest partners.  ARKive, if you haven’t visited their site yet, is an online library of wildlife images, video and audio clips, organised by species (focusing particularly on those in peril) – watch their introductory video below.

ARKive is an invaluable resource and a wonderful contribution from those who (largely) reside in media. But these days it is no longer only the traditional media that can tell the story of the natural world and the threat it faces – and no longer only the media who carries the responsibility to.  With a myriad of (often free) platforms that allow the upload of videos, pictures, and datasets, and the ability to create blogs, websites and maps, there is no longer any excuse to lock good and important information away in peer-review journals or reports, making it inaccessible to the general public and people who need to make decisions about our world.

This, of course, one of the reasons that MAPA exists. Our hope is that researchers and conservation practitioners can use the (little) tool that we’ve created – a map built on a (big) visualization platform (Google Earth, if you were unsure!) – to put their information out there.

So what we’ve created is a place for you to go online, fill in a form with text, pictures, videos and links and literally, put your project on the map, or, if you wish, create your own map from this bigger map for your own purposes (more on this next week). And one of the ways that we help you put that together, is by dipping into the audiovisual treasure chest that is ARKive.


How do we do that?  When you add a project, you can go to the wildlife tab (see below), search and select the species that you are working on, and update your bubble. Now when users click on that species, they will be flown off to the ARKive page for that species, where they can explore facts, videos, and photographs.  “Your” study species not on the list? Search the ARKive database and add it! Just please remember that you can only add ARKive images in the species tab of your project bubbles – if you want to use their information elsewhere, be sure to obtain the necessary permissions.


Our map isn’t the only way you can view ARKive in Google Earth, of course. ARKive has created several very high quality Google Earth layers – explore these from the Google Earth Gallery.

More ways to virtually visit National Parks

Posted on April 6th, 2011 in General,New Content by Alta

While we busy teaching the Western Cape’s conservation practitioners how to use Google Earths & Maps in Stellenbosch and Cape Town over the last two weeks (more on that soon), our editor, Peter Levey, was working on ways to make the National Parks more visible virtually.

We’ve been sitting on a lot of photos taken by volunteer mappers over the course of the last two years as they crisscrossed the continent’s national parks with their GPSes and cameras. Peter took a selection of these photographs, uploaded them as slideshows to Picasa and embedded these in Google Earth (Learn how to do that here).


He then uploaded these to the protected areas in question (much like you can add your own Google Earth KML and KMZ files to your MAPA project bubbles). The end result? If you visit a selection of National Parks, and click on “click to see more” (as shown below) you can view these photographs within Google Earth. Just click on the slideshow icon, as shown below, to see them.



The Parks that we’ve uploaded slideshows for are are:

  • Bikuar, Angola
  • Kasungu, Malawi
  • Akagera, Rwanda
  • Gombe Stream, Tanzania
  • Katavi, Tanzania
  • Murchison Falls, Uganda
  • Sioma Ngwezi, Zambia
  • Hwange, Zimbabwe
  • Gorongosa. Mozambique
  • Nechisar, Ehiopia

In the coming months we’ll add more slideshows and track tours (like the one we added for Iona, in Angola). Let us know what you think, or email us you own. We might just add it to a protected area bubble.