Virginia, USA, 31 July 31 2006: The 100 million users of Google Earth can now zoom down into the lush canopy of trees in Gombe National Park in Tanzania and read daily updates about the lives of the park’s famous chimpanzees on www.janegoodall.org.
Recently, Google Earth laid down new 61-centimeter high-resolution satellite images of Gombe National Park. Previously the images of Gombe were low resolution (15 meters). Viewers could only zoom in so far before the image would blur. The high-resolution images were provided to Google Earth by DigitalGlobe, Inc.
The new imagery clearly depicts the extent of deforestation in the Gombe region – lush and green inside the park boundaries and desert-like outside. In fact, despite research and preservation efforts at Gombe, the habitat around the park is disappearing at an alarming rate. What was once a vast, flourishing forest with 120 to 140 chimps is now home to some 90 chimpanzees. The deforestation is a critical problem for Gombe chimps who have seen feeding range outside the park shrink. Those feeding areas are critical for long-term survival of Gombe chimpanzees.
“This imagery is a powerful tool to help us visualize the spatial relationships between the forest and human land uses,” said JGI Director of Conservation Science Lilian Pintea. “You can clearly see houses, paths, oil palm plantations, cassava fields and other agricultural activity. Looking at these images, we gain a true appreciation for the degree of threat and challenges we face in saving Gombe.” The next step in the evolution of this blog will be to lay down markers and daily blog entries using the actual GPS coordinates provided by field staff.