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!