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."

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
Wednesday, 11 February 2015 05:33

7 - Announcement of Possible Rhino Trade

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.

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.


Wednesday, 07 January 2015 11:47

Websites & News: Introduction

A brief discussion on some of the conservation related websites used on a daily basis to understand this changing world and the human impact on our natural resources.

One of the greatest advances in the study of our global environment, was the advent of the satellite with its various observation techniques. Data from satellites developed by NASA (US government), dealing with space exploration became available in the public domain. Humanity was finally able to collate an overview of the state of the global environment, through a large variety of sensors developed for each satellite and for each focus area. A review of these results has become one of my favourite activities and each morning I observe them with excitement. In this section I will highlight the most informative sites accompanied by my comments on specific events occurring daily around the globe.

Published in Atlas of the Globe
Wednesday, 07 January 2015 11:44

1 - GIS in Conservation

Bringing about an understanding of GIS as a tool in conservation planning and management

In 1972 I was fortunate enough  to be allocated a bursary for studies in the USA. My first introduction to GIS was during these studies at University of Pennsylvania, with the Professor Ian McHarg. At that time, GIS was elementary and restricted to a grid system of data management with the printing of maps, limited to shades of grey through over printing by typewriters.

On my return to South Africa, I was appointed Head of the Department of Landscape Architecture at the University of Pretoria, where I developed our own GIS system in Fortran. Soon the development of professional software and programs, such as ArcInfo, replaced my basic GIS program.

Published in GIS in Conservation
Wednesday, 07 January 2015 11:41

3 - Understanding Conservation

Introduction of the theoretical basis for conservation and ecosystem services as a support model for decisionmaking.

Conservation was originally seen as an act of protection for scenic beauty and tourism values. The culling of excess numbers of wildlife was and is still frowned upon. Management was seen as a necessary evil and protected areas became more and more isolated in the changing world. Pressure from immediate surroundings increased the importance of management. Management goals and objectives had to be adjusted when conservation changed from the protection of natural resources to a form of land use that benefits surrounding human populations. Various projects based on conservation and ecosystems services (ESS) as an indispensable element will be illustrated.

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