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."

The concept of ecosystem services and its value to society has been touched upon a number of times in my website.

The principles behind this approach were established by the study on the SADC ecosystem services component of the Millennium development goals by Scholes and Biggs. De Groot and others took it onto the global scale in their global study on the value of ESS and its financial implications.

Click here for the pdf: Benefits of Forest Ecosystems in Zambia and the role of REDD+ in a green economy transformation

I also illustrated the mapping of Ecosystem services (ESS) on an SADC wide, South Africa and world heritage sites such as the Vhembe biosphere reserve.

Thursday, 07 May 2015 12:01

1 - Should Nature Be Valued?

Should ecosystems and its services be valued? This question is foremost in the minds of conservationists today with the current debate on rhino horn and ivory and the trading thereof. This Guardian article comes to the conclusion that we have no choice but to so. The emotional approach has failed over the last 25 years and we have to follow a new approach if we are going to win this war.

This is however but a small part of the global discussion, where the identification of the important of ecosystem services has been increasing and the watershed study by De Groot and others on the value of global ecosystem services makes this very clear. Ecosystems and the services they provide have a capital component. It also indicates that payment for these services has to be included in government policies if rural communities are to derive benefit. Communities should be rewarded for the management they can provide.

The original work on the millennium development goals by Scholes and Biggs are still very valid and need to be implemented by the National Planning Commission if we are going to save our natural resources for future generations.

I have included the work by De Groot and others as this globally important work attaches economic value to ecosystems and its services and illustrates the vast economic benefit of nature.

The three references provide important platforms for the critical conservation debate of the role of conservation areas in the land use patterns of our country and how benefits are to be calculated. One slide by De Groot illustrates the holistic approach to nature and should be seen as the primary motivation behind the establishment of conservation areas.


Image Credit: Ecosystem Services by De Groot

Read the first chapter here

Wednesday, 29 April 2015 07:04

11 - Can Polar Bears Be Saved?

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?

As the primary role of conservation authorities is the protection and management of biodiversity, it should also be involved in the identification and transfer of services, benefits and value distribution.

This can only done if parks and conservation areas are viewed as a form of land use, that needs to be integrated into regional land use patterns.

Thursday, 02 April 2015 12:57

1 - Man's Global Impact is Out of Control

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

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.


During the last number of years we have been involved with small studies and mapping exercises of a number of little know African Parks. These studies were completed for Leadership for Conservation in Africa (LCA) during investigations into support for a number of countries in Africa. Each of these studies places the park in its natural and man made environment. It illustrates the influence of the regional surroundings on conservation areas. I will, during the next few weeks, place a number of these studies on my blog. 

Published in African Projects

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.

Monday, 02 March 2015 06:14

United for Wildlife

It could just be that the political influence of the global elite will be more important than that of the brave game rangers and guardians of the elephants of Africa.  A very good overview of the strategy behind the high level discussions and the importance at this level of approach to wildlife poaching.

Prince William Take Plight Africas Elephants Behind Enemy Lines China

Published in Atlas of the Globe

The history of the creation of the Limpopo National Park, adjacent to the Kruger National Park, has become obscured with time and with the growth of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park. It is still relevant as this event marked the start of the establishment and growth of the Peace Parks Foundation, one of the most successful and influential NGO’s in Africa.

It was during the early days of 1991 that the SA Nature Foundation, later to become WWF South Africa, requested Dr Ken Tinley and myself to conduct a report on the potential for this, the first of many transfrontier parks in Southern Africa. Dr Ken Tinley had worked in Mozambique and its conservation areas for many years and became wellknown for his brilliant study of the Gorongoza National Park in Mozambique as the subject of his PHD thesis. He also had specific knowledge of the Catado 16, the controlled hunting area next to the Kruger National Park’s eastern fence, and understood the culture of the region well through his knowledge of Portuguese.

Published in African Projects
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