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."

Wednesday, 30 March 2016 06:46

4 - Water Crisis in India

Water is one of the most easily understood of all the ecosystems services nature provides for human kind. The fact that the management of catchments basins and the mountains that provides this resource is a crucial ecosystem services activity, is not so obvious. This article makes it very clear that the limiting effect of reduced ecosystem services that originates from the upper catchments is arriving now not in the future.

A point of view that I have been promoting for some time is that the protection of ecosystems services should receive higher priority when deciding on the allocating of land for conservation purposes. Pure biodiversity arguments will not hold water when the crisis arrives like it is now arriving in India.

A frightening picture of the future is sketched in this article.

For review of a South African illustration have a look at the previous blog about the Nzelele catchment basin in the Limpopo province.

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)


Published in GIS in Conservation
Tuesday, 06 October 2015 07:03

13 - Elephant Poaching On Industrial Scale

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

We have become so used to the fact that man made structures can be proclaimed as historical monuments if ISIS does not destroy them. This article on the termites is fascinating.

During a period of working with a mining company on developing new methods of dealing with environmental impact, through identifying ecosystem services as the measure of the environmental impact, I often used the structure and functionality of in a termite mound as en example of ecological efficiency. When measured against the challenges a mine is facing when working underground these termites are amazing.

That their structures are now found to be long living and have survived over many years refocuses my attention onto these wonderful animals. In the era of only looking at large species these small species are often forgotten. In terms of biomass, termites are seen to be one of the most important species on earth.

Full Article: Click Here

This article gives some real information on the value that hunting delivers to conservation in general and rural regions specifically. The financial value of this kind of activity is very clearly explained and supports the overall benefit of conservation as a land use protecting ecosystem services. In Africa today the loss of habitat, loss of wildlife due to poaching is of immediate threat. Once it is gone it will never come back.

The emotional outburst to the Cecil incident is astonishing considering the dramatic increase in the threat to wild life in rural areas of Africa. The use of satellite imaging gives real indications of change through activities such as agriculture and deforestation through logging as well as the uncontrolled growth in destructive land use activities that arrives with presence of roads and access such as bush meat poaching.

Hunting by giving value can counter these forces and allow rural communities some benefit.

Full Article: 10 consequences of banning trophy hunting in SA

Published in Atlas of the Globe
Monday, 03 August 2015 10:55

3 - Ground Water Basins In Distress

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

A GIS based map indicating the arch of volcanic islands and mountain backbone of Cameroon. The red line indicates the Cameroon border. Note the volcanic islands in the ocean.

Recently I had the opportunity of visiting the Crater Lake region of Cameroon in the northwest province of the country. A series of craters and crater lakes dominate the mountain backbone of Cameroon. This specific lake became a crater of enormous interest due to the incredible effect of the spread of carbon dioxide through upwelling into the lake water body itself which then spills down the surrounding valleys, killing people and cattle. It took quite a while before scientists could determine the cause of this natural disaster. This NASA article explains the events before and after very well.

Published in GIS in Conservation

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

Tuesday, 30 June 2015 06:39

2 - Life On Earth Is In Trouble

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

Tuesday, 30 June 2015 06:23

14 - Tree Poaching in Mozambique

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'

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