The GIS Project of the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) was recently launched at the Johannesburg Country Club. GIMS will be assisting with the development of this project, having already donated an ArcView and Spatial Analyst to the EWT. At present the EWT has failed to take advantage of this innovative technology, but has now acknowledged the benefits of utilising spatial data in the most efficient manner through GIS technology. The EWT plans to centralise data at their head offices, allowing standardisation of data and the prevention of the duplication of work. This will lead to increased efficiency and productivity by the working groups whose time and funding resources are often limited. In this way many more conservation objectives can be achieved.
Pictured at the launch are from left: Rudolf De Munnik (GIMS), Charles Oosthuizen (GIMS), Ingrid Landman (GIMS), Dr Ian White (KNP) Lauren Solomon (GIMS), Brenda Daly (EWT), John Ledger (Chairman EWT) and Coral Wilder (EWT)
Conservation management is currently at a turning point, where we have moved from ad hoc conservation initiatives to well integrated and planned strategies. Many working groups within the EWT emphasise the anthropogenic sources of direct mortality (poisoning, shooting, and collision) in the species being conserved. Even though these issues need to be addressed, focus needs to be placed on the less tangible sources (land transformation and mismanagement and habitat loss). Geographical Information System is a means of measuring these effects and to assess landscape quality from an endangered species perspective.
In order for conservationists to be taken more seriously it is necessary for their initiatives and arguments to be based on transparent principles and scientific data. It is then much easier to participate in strategic, political and economic debate than if priorities are based on whims and personal preferences. Identifying priority species and areas for conservation can be useful for fundraising by emphasising specific interests of potential donors. The common thread of the Raptor Conservation Group (RCG) and Vulture Study Group (VSG) is the gathering of information from a large geographical area throughout southern Africa.
Successful examples of the use of GIS in conservation are the mapping of annual movement patterns by the South African Crane Working Group of Blue Cranes using satellite telemetry. Tools such as GIS make it easier to collect, collate and report this information. The White Stork project run by the Avian Demography Unit using the ARGOS satellite ground-station in Toulouse, France makes extensive use of modern tools and GIS and provide the necessary infrastructure for the high visibility penguin tracking, after the Treasure oil spill off Cape Town (Penguin Percy).
Modern tools need to be used in the proactive management of data, the monitoring of trends and an interactive management support system for field officers. This will allow EWT to have valuable resource in lobbying of parliament with regard to endangered species, as well as increase efficiency in the response to threats of endangered species, while providing valuable input into environmental impact assessments.
"It is hoped that with the help of Geographic Information Management Systems (GIMS) this can happen. We look forward to cultivating a long-lasting relationship with our new partners, GIMS," concludes Brenda Daly of the EWT.
Endangered Wildlife Trust
(011) 646 4629/8617
Geographic Information Management Systems (GIMS)
(011) 315 0390