Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Beyond ACTS: African Elephants in Ivory Wars

A team-member at National Geographic magazine wrote to tell me about their Ivory Wars article in the March 2007 edition. It is about the elephants of Zakouma National Park in Chad, and the extreme poaching problems that they face. The story is also covered in some depth on the National Geographic magazine website, with Feature 1 - Ivory Wars and Feature 2 - Eye To Eye by J. Michael Fay plus photographs by Michael Nichols.
The dead elephant, a huge bull, lay on his side, right leg curled as if in wrenching pain. Dirt covered the exposed eye—magic done by poachers to hide the carcass from vultures. The smell of musth and urine, of fresh death, hung over the mound of the corpse. It was a sight I had seen hundreds of times in central Africa. As I passed my hand over his body from trunk to tail, tears poured down my cheeks. I lifted the bull's ear. Lines of bright red blood bubbled and streamed from his lips, pooling in the dust. His skin was checkered with wrinkles. The base of his trunk was as thick as a man's torso. Deep fissures ran like rivers through the soles of his feet; in those lines, I could trace every step he had taken during his 30 years of life.
They also have an information page on their Google Earth feature, with the Zakouma—Ivory Wars KLM file ready to download into Google Earth.
Rich new layers let you zoom in on the park's animal inhabitants, read author Mike Fay's journal entries, see camera-trap photos, and more.
Much like Jane Goodall's Chimpanzee Blog, the Ivory Wars Google Earth layer has (amongst other things) blog entries and lots of stunning photography. Combined with their previous Google Earth content such as the African Megaflyover, National Geographic truly are at the forefront of making the best use of this emerging "geo-browser".

Thanks to Keene Haywood for alerting me to the story, Mike Fay and Michael Nichols, and all the rest of the National Geographic team who worked on this story. I'm pleased to help spread the word about your good work.

P.S. As I've mentioned in a previous blog post, you can take Google Earth way beyond the basic mouse and keyboard control with 3D-Connexion's fabulous "Space Navigator". I highly recommended this intuitive, addictive and very attractively priced device. It makes exploring special layers like Ivory Wars even easier.

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