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Satellites map volcanic home of Africas endangered gorillas

"It's very exciting to get a look at some of the products we're going to be able to take into the field in future," remarked Maryke Gray, regional monitoring officer of the International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP). "The area covered is a volcanic massif that is often difficult to access; what maps of it are available are more than three decades old and often inaccurate, and we have no maps whatsoever for some territory." Dennis Babasa, ecological monitoring coordinator for Uganda's Institute of Tropical Forest Conservation, added: "These are maps we have wanted to create previously, but we simply haven't had the tools to create them. Remote sensing is providing useful assets for our work."

Mountain gorillas are found in highland forests that straddle the borders between Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. These regions make up a set of five national parks; three of these have been designated World Heritage Sites by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), while the remaining two have been nominated for the same status.

However regional political conflicts have led to an influx of refugees into the areas around the parks. Clearing forest for agriculture or fuel, as well as illegal poaching for food, has impacted the parks and reduced the living space left for the gorillas.

Protecting the parks is difficult because they have long boundaries that run across extremely inaccessible and hardly mapped territory. An ESA-run project called Build Environment for Gorilla (BeGO) has been using Earth Observation resources to chart the region in order to help conservation bodies working in and around the parks.

On 10 and 11 June representatives from BEGo partners including UNESCO, IGCP, the Wildlife Fund Eastern Africa Programme Office (WWF-EAPO) and Uganda's Institute of Tropical Forest Conservation (ITFC) met at ESA's European Space Research Institute (ESRIN) in Frasca
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Contact: Mariangela D'Acunto
mariangela.d'acunto@esa.int
39-06-941-80-856
European Space Agency
29-Jun-2004


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