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."

Thursday, 25 February 2016 09:33

ESRI Conservation GIS Program

It is with great pride and pleasure that I announce that the ESRI Conservation Grant was awarded to myself and the TRANSBOUNDARY CONSERVATION FOUNDATION.

This is indeed a great honour and would allow the Foundation access to all the new software linked to the enormous ESRI GIS platform and will also allow access the vast amount of new environmental data that is being made available by ESRI to all Conservation projects. The world is changing around us and so is the use of GIS software and information through use of Apps instead of complex programs.

I hope to be making use of this in the near future to provide our many conservation projects with new skills.

Thank you all at ESRI South Africa and ESRI USA!




Published in Atlas of the Globe

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

A very interesting article on the improved measurement techniques from satellites and NASA, indicating that the volumes of sea ice in the Artic actually increased. It supports the idea, that climate change has become so politicised that it is difficult to determine fact from fiction.

Click Here for full article: Arctic sea ice volume showed strong recovery in 2013


Published in Atlas of the Globe

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 was personally one of the most interesting projects I have ever worked on. The planning for the Makhado Mine for Coal of Africa required a review of the Vhembe Biosphere reserve as well as the Nzhelele catchment basin and their ecosystem services. This review of all the mapped information was placed on a map composition in a sequence that would follow a thin red line of logic in one single map poster. It will require some detailed study by zooming in on each of the maps on the poster but will reveal the vast amount of information these maps contain. (see the download link at the end of this article for the full size version)

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.

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
Friday, 30 January 2015 06:17

A Map is Worth a Thousand Words


On their 100-year celebration of making maps NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC published an interesting article, “The science and art of making maps”. It opened up my own thoughts on maps as I have often found that many people look at a map as a flat, fixed time arrangement of colours with no scale or orientation.

I have used maps from my early days of exploring rivers, through to the understanding of new landscapes and when depicting of land use proposals and ecosystem services. Often one would read scientific reports that does not include maps and contains only a descriptive text. For a single map to fulfil all these functions is a science, but the presentation is also an art when the mapped information is depicted in a map composition. A map is worth a thousand words.

Published in Atlas of the Globe

One of the most interesting projects the Transboundary Consulting Africa was involved with was the development of a decision support model for the Department of Environmental Affairs of South Africa. The aim was to develop a GIS based database of public domain information dealing with ecosystem services.

Published in GIS in Conservation
Sunday, 18 January 2015 19:45

3 - Vhembe Biosphere Reserve

Please click here to download the larger version of the map composition (5mb)

Illustration of the application of Ecosystem Services as a management tool through the use of GIS

The Vhembe biosphere reserved is a proclaimed Biosphere Reserve of UNESCO. It is a perfect example of an island mountain, called the Soutpansberg, with high natural resources, surrounded by regions of lower resources. Millions of people in the surrounding regions are dependant on these ecosystem services (ESS).

It is also a perfect example of the environmental impact of the previous policy of apartheid. The eastern region of the mountain formed a part of the homeland of the Venda people and the western region fell under the control of the Transvaal administration, a part of South Africa. The western region is a sparsely populated, large farmland and the eastern region received people from all over South Africa, all relocated as a part of the former homeland policy. Although the Venda homeland was fortunate to share in the ESS from the mountain island, it became overpopulated over time and the environmental impact of agriculture, urbanization and forestry is very visible today.

Published in African Projects
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