Highlighting the career of Prof Willem van Riet, directing innovative conservation initiatives in Africa, illustrating his experiences and approach through the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

An all-inclusive approach to conservation was instigated by numerous adventures on wild rivers in the 60’s and developed through academic research at Universities in Philadelphia (USA) and Pretoria (South Africa). GIS software, data and processes were harnessed throughout his career in support of planning, scientific analyses and fundraising.  Projects and programmes will be illustrated through a number themes. This approach was implemented during his years on the SANParks Board and on transboundary initiatives in Southern Africa during his 10 years as the CEO of the Peace Parks Foundation. Recently he has functioned as a consulted through the Swedish entity (Transboundary Conservation Foundation).

"I hope that the review of these conservation projects, as a journey of discovery through the use of GIS and maps, will be of assistance to conservation development in many parts of the world. I would like to iterate that the content of this site reflects my own personal point of view and is based on my personal experiences."

As a firm believer in the value of maps, I found this article very illuminating. A map is a three-dimensional image on paper and often tells many stories through the layers of information each maps can be composed of. Pictures are more superficial and are more based on colour, texture and composition rather than content. National Geographic has been at the forefront of the science of mapping but in the recent past we have had NASA and their various satellites producing more and more maps of extreme quality and depth of knowledge. In the science of GIS, the individual layers are often grouped together from separate layers of information to become, through overlays, one single image with vast depth of knowledge available to the viewer. 

Click Here for the Full Article

I recently had the opportunity to present a keynote address to the conservation group at the ESRI User Conference Africa in Cape Town. It gave me the chance to expose our work on Ecosystem Services as a conservation priority.  Of special interest was the memo of October 7th 2015 from President Obama to the US government to commence developing policies on Ecosystem Services. Please click below to download and view my full presentation at the ESRI User

Please click below to download and view the full presentation from the ESRI User Conference Africa:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Human Footprint Video 1

Europe-SADC Video 2

ESRI Website


Myself, Eveline van Riet(Transboundary Foundation) and Jack Dangermond(ESRI President)


Even while all the information leads to a cynical view of the future for rhino in Southern Africa, this information on news24 gives one some hope at last. At least the routes to the north and Europe should be more difficult to use. The informal news from the battlefront is not encouraging. In both Mozambique and South Africa there seems to be little political will to do anything.

Let us all hope we have reached the bottom of the cycle.


This very relevant and welcome announcement of Environment Minister Edna Molewa reached me this morning. This could just be the event that brings about the turning of the cycle of despair. Congratulation Minister Molewa:


The Minister of Environmental Affairs, Mrs Edna Molewa today introduced the Committee of Inquiry tasked with investigating the feasibility of a trade in rhino horn.

On 22 January 2014 Minister Molewa announced that once pre-screening and vetting by the State Security Agency (SSA) was completed, that the names would be publically released.

One of my most interesting and challenging projects was the project dealing with the impact of mining on World Heritage Sites in Africa. It was a desktop study but finding information on mining development was not easy to obtain. However the use of GIS proved to be indispensable as well as the use of Google for 3d modelling. Please see below gallery of this study. Do not hesitate to contact me if you would like to receive the powerpoint version of this work. Contact


  1. Project brief
  2. Context
  3. Best practise guidelines
  4. General threats & challenges
  5. WHS affected by mineral extraction
  6. WHS: Review & analyses
  7. Proposed guidelines
  8. Conclusions
  9. Recommendations

The recent post on Facebook on the famous sculptor Coert Steynberg by Anna du Toit and the Kruger National Park in South Africa has an interesting backdrop. Back in 1972 there was a heated debate about the famous Kruger statue. Originally the idea was to cut the head of Paul Kruger out of a granite hill some distance south of Skukuza on the Malelane road in the Kruger National Park. The public was up in arms about the visual impact of such a large unnatural structure staring out over the landscape, desecrating the wilderness.

Oom Coert with granite block from Paarl

I was asked by the SANPark’s board to become involved to see if a middle road solution to this tricky problem could be found. So it was that I found myself on a plane with Sybrand van Niekerk, the administrator of the old Transvaal, flying to Skukuza with no idea how to deal with this granite administrator, an ardent proponent of the hill statue idea. After some days in the park talking to all and sundry, my proposal to them was not to creating the statue out of a hill in the Kruger National Park, but to bring the granite rock all the way from Paarl in the Western Cape. The plan was to carve the statue from this granite in Skukuza and then transport it to the Kruger gate, where it is still standing to this day.

Drone technology, combined with GIS, is an extremely practical and useful approach to combating poaching, developed using innovation in all its forms. Tracking the roads and proximity of rhinos is what GIS and drones could do so well. Why do all the NGOs, who are raising funds under the emotional cloud created by the enormous publicity generated by rhinos, not band together and support such a project?  This has enormous potential and is so innovative. Just what is needed in this period of reduced hope.

Dams were often developed without the overall planning and environmental management in countries such as the USA and Canada, where hydropower are seen as essential and urgent.

This video therefore makes interesting viewing: Elwha River Unplugged: Whitewater Remade as Salmon Return

Here is another very interesting video of the breaking of the Condit Dam: Spectacular Time Lapse Dam "Removal" Video

In most of the east coast of the USA in states such as California, Washington and British Columbia in Canada numerous dams and hydropower plants have been there for years, often with catastrophic effects on the migration of salmon and the life of the first nation Indian people.

This could be the start of an approach to the demand side of the ivory equation that might also work for the rhino horn model. The principles behind the trading or protection of animal products such as ivory, rhino horn or big cat bones argument will be given some support by the success or otherwise of such a statement and government intervention.


Do we really think we can do anything about the global impact of our activities? It is already out of control and I think we deserve what we are about to receive?

Click below for the full article on The Guardian:

Over Population, Oover Consumption - In Pictures

There are no polar bears in Africa, however the principles behind their possible demise is relevant to the management of African wildlife. The concept of translocation to another continent is relevant to the idea of moving rhinos to China. The one comment one can make is that it gives no credibility to polar bears and their adaptation skills. They have been around a long time and through previous warming tends so they might survive this one too.

Click here for the full arcticle. Can Polar Bears Be Saved?

It is no wonder the Mozambicans view rhinos as the vehicle to lift them from poverty. Poaching will continue whether it is trees or rhinos.

Nito Silva wipes the wood shavings from his sweaty face while his chainsaw still growls. “I log about 40 trees per day,” he says, leaning on a tree he has just cut. The 45-year-old Mozambican, dressed in a grubby T-shirt, torn trousers and scuffed shoes, cuts trees illegally – not wearing a helmet, ear protection or safety glasses. Hundreds of tree stumps around him are proof of his hard labour.

Mozambique will be stripped of its forests 'in just a few years'

They only counted the large animals species, it has become clear that small species such bees and termites have a much greater total biomass than that of large animals and are also much more influential in the ecosystem services they provide.

Life on Earth is in trouble. That much we know. But how bad have things become – and how fast are events moving? How soon, indeed, before the Earth’s biological treasures are trashed, in what will be the sixth great mass extinction event? This is what Gerardo Caballos of the National Autonomous University of Mexico and his colleagues have assessed, in a paper that came out on Friday.

The Earth stands on the brink of its sixth mass extinction and the fault is ours

The Buzz on Native Bees

This just too incredible to believe, all this money and very little arrives at the battlefront. Naturally, the recipients use a large percentage of these funds for administrative purposes. Rhino poaching must the best fundraising cause ever.

When one talks to the rangers, they are extremely depressed and uncertain about the future. What will it take to tackle this problem seriously? What a frightening and depressing article. When read in conjunction with the other reports on poaching of elephants in Tanzania and Mozambique, I become despondent about the future of wild life in Africa. What will attract the tourism when the animals are all gone. The way we are loosing wildlife, this going to happen in our lifetime.

Click here for the full article

I have always thought that surface water will be restricting our current way of life on earth very much sooner than climate change and carbon. By looking at this study the groundwater, a resource much less is known about, will also be in trouble. These resources take a lot longer than surface water resource to recover. Many of them will never and they are probably the most important ecosystem service resources.

Full Article: A third of the world’s biggest groundwater basins are in distress

It is truly unbelievable that countries and governments cannot protect their natural resources and especially their wildlife. The central African states such as Kenya and Tanzania are very much dependant, from tourism point of view, on the image and the reality of their wildlife numbers. These resources cannot come back once destroyed, to move and relocate wild life is very difficult and expensive and they really have to migrate back once destroyed. This has become very difficult due the fast changes in land use and the ever increasing isolation of the wildlife populations. It seems that the Chinese, politicians and the underfunding of parks staff together is a recipe for destruction.

Full Article: Click Here

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