You can now virtually walk among the elephants of Samburu National Reserve

samburu elephants
Screen capture Google Street View

Google Street View has once again captured a unique place and brought it to the world to see. Using their vehicle and backpack-mounted camera technology, the Google Maps team has created a virtual tour of a beautiful place full of beautiful creatures in need of help.

The Samburu National Reserve is located in the northern part of Kenya, a remote park that that not many people outside of its residents get to see in person. The reserve is incredibly important though because it is home to a large population of elephants and other endangered species and serves as the headquarters for the organization Save the Elephants and its many conservation programs.

Over the past 15 years, Save the Elephants has worked in Samburu, as well as other parts of Africa, to GPS-collar and track elephants, study individual and group movement patterns and manage the interaction between humans and elephants. They have also, possibly most importantly, directed many resources towards anti-poaching efforts. All of their work has paid off in Samburu where remarkably the elephant population is slowly increasing, a true exception to the rest of Africa where elephant numbers are decreasing at a rapid pace. In just the span of two years from 2010-2012, 100,000 African elephants were killed by poachers for their ivory and the species is in danger of extinction in the next couple of decades if the poaching continues at this rate.

Save the Elephants has long used Google Earth as part of their tools in tracking and managing elephant herds, so when they wanted a way to bring more awareness to Samburu and the work being done there, Google stepped in and offered their Street View trekker technology to document the reserve.

Save the Elephant's researcher David Dabellen writes on Google's Lat Long Blog about what to expect in a Street View tour of Samburu:

Every time I drive into the Reserve, I can see the trust on the elephants’ faces and feel a warm welcome. When I’m out and about, I never know which of my fellow citizens I’ll bump into next. It could be some of the 600+ elephants I can recognize—like the Hardwood family—frolicking together, a group of Samburu warriors walking along the Ewaso Nyiro River, a pride of lions enjoying a bit of shade, or a leopard crossing the path. While you make your journey through Street View, you may be surprised what awaits.

samburu elephants mudGoogle Street View/Screen capture

The Street View images not only show elephants and other wildlife, but also take you to Save the Elephant's headquarters, as well as two other partner organizations: the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy where all elephant GPS collar activity is monitored and park rangers are alerted if trouble is detected and to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust where orphan elephants are cared for and reintegrated back into the wild when they're ready.

Take a tour of the park and then consider donating to any of the three organizations to help them keep up the good work.

Tags: Africa | Computing | Endangered Species | Technology

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