Conservation workers have had their first look at satellite-derived map products that show a remote habitat of endangered African mountain gorillas in unprecedented detail. Production versions of these prototype products will help protect the less than 700 of the species remaining alive.
”It’s very exciting to get a look at some of the products we’re going to be able to take into the field in future,” remarked Maryke Gray, regional monitoring officer of the International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP). ”The area covered is a volcanic massif that is often difficult to access; what maps of it are available are more than three decades old and often inaccurate, and we have no maps whatsoever for some territory.”
Dennis Babasa, ecological monitoring coordinator for Uganda’s Institute of Tropical Forest Conservation, added: ”These are maps we have wanted to create previously, but we simply haven’t had the tools to create them. Remote sensing is providing useful assets for our work.”
Mountain gorillas are found in highland forests that straddle the borders between Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. These regions make up a set of five national parks; three of these have been designated World Heritage Sites by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), while the remaining two have been nominated for the same status.
The maps comprise of a 1:50000 scale base map, land cover map and digital elevation model (DEM) of the area around Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.
The ESA-run project called Build Environment for Gorilla (BeGO) has been using Earth Observation resources to chart the region in order to help conservation bodies working in and around the parks. The base map was provided in a paper version during the two-day review process. In addition base and land cover maps were overlaid on the DEM to create a three-dimensional representation of the landscape, and to help familiarise themselves with the products. The BEGo partners experienced a simulated fly-over of the area using ESRIN’s Virtual Reality Theatre.