News + Opinions

Celebrating EarthRanger Global Expansion

Conservation
Mar 01 2021
First developed to address the elephant crisis, EarthRanger is now protecting snow leopards in Mongolia and tackling the alarming rate of deforestation in Cambodia.
A critically endangered black rhino roams the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya. Photo courtesy Shaun Mousley.

Since EarthRanger’s first deployment at Kenya’s Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in 2016, the online software solution developed by Vulcan Inc. has been helping protected area managers make informed, conservation-related operational decisions. 

Now after five years, EarthRanger is working with over 100 sites across 30 countries, helping to protect over 250,000 square miles and monitor 50 endangered and threatened species and their habitats. Elephants, rhinos, snow leopards, pangolins, and invasive species are all being tracked by these diverse sites, each with their own challenges in conservation, but all with the shared goal of protecting biodiversity.   

Here’s a look at a few of the sites and species EarthRanger is protecting today. 
 

Kenya | Chad | Mozambique | Croatia | USA (New Jersey) | Mongolia | Zambia | Belize | Kenya (Ol Pejeta)

Kenya

Northern Rangelands Trust

Pate Marine, Kiunga, and Lower Tana Delta conservancies are working with partners to restore and protect mangroves like this one. Photo courtesy Northern Rangelands Trust.
Partner: Northern Rangelands Trust

Fast Facts: From mountains and dense forests to deserts and even the Indian Ocean, Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT) supports 39 community conservancies covering more than 16,200 square miles across northern and coastal Kenya. Owned and controlled by the communities it serves, NRT supports more than 300,000 Indigenous people belonging to 18 different ethnic groups. A region that was once marred by conflict and poaching is now at the forefront of community-led development and conservation. 

Wildlife: African elephant, lion, black rhino (critically endangered), reticulated giraffe (endangered), Grevy's Zebra (endangered), hirola (critically endangered), sea turtles 

Noteworthy Data Points: 
  • 96% drop in the number elephant killed for ivory since 2012

  • 4 community-run endangered species sanctuaries for black rhino, hirola, giraffe, and orphaned elephants

  • Since 2015, the conservancy has provided more than $3.4 million for 135 projects benefiting 69,455 people. 

  • Nearly 50,000 mangroves seedlings planted in community conservancies

The world's only known white giraffe is protected by NRT. Photo courtesy Northern Rangelands Trust.

[EarthRanger] has changed the socio-conservation space by creating connectivity across a vast and remote landscape. 

David Powrie, NRT Chief Operations Officer (COO).

Chad

Ennedi Natural and Cultural Reserve

Partner: African Parks

Fast Facts: Located in the northeast of Chad, the Ennedi Natural and Cultural Reserve encompasses one of the six great mountain ranges of the Sahara. This sandstone masterpiece, carved over millennia by water and wind, is almost 4,600 feet high and covers nearly 20,000 square miles of rocky plateaus, herbaceous steppes, savannahs, ephemeral rivers and sand dunes.

Ennedi Natural and Culture Reserve in Chad is an oasis in the desert. Photo courtesy APN RNCE.

Filled with water, the Ennedi Massif is well known as the Eden of the Sahara. Fauna and flora abound in this open-air museum where thousands of paintings and engravings adorn the mineral landscape. Man has roamed through this area since the Neolithic period, 10,000 years ago.  

Today, Ennedi remains a crucial resource for semi-nomadic groups in search of water and pasture. In 2016, the Ennedi Massif was placed on the UNESCO list of mixed – cultural and natural – sites of the World Heritage of Humanity. 

Wildlife: West African crocodile, Barbary sheep, Dorcas gazelle, Olive baboon, Rüppell’s fox, fennec fox, red-necked ostrich (critically endangered)

Noteworthy Data Points:
 
  • 30,000 community members live within or move through Ennedi every year 

  • The last 4 desert-adapted West African crocodiles in Chad are found in the Guelta d’Archeï within the Ennedi Natural and Cultural Reserve

  • In 2020, Ennedi initiated a rewilding project with 12 critically endangered North African, or red-necked, ostriches, the world’s largest living bird  

  • At least 189 bird species call Ennedi home 

A camel drinks in Ennedi. Photo courtesy APN RNCE.
Mozambique

Gorongosa National Park

Thanks to Gorongosa National Park's ambitious wildlife restoration effort, wild dogs once again roam the park. Photo courtesy Gorongosa National Park. 

Partner: Gorongosa National Park

Fast Facts: Among one of the most biodiverse places on Earth, Gorongosa National Park in the heart of central Mozambique is perhaps Africa’s greatest wildlife restoration story. 

Between 1977 and 1992, the country’s civil war decimated the park’s abundant wildlife. Ivory from elephants was used to buy guns and ammunition while thousands of zebras and other big animals were slaughtered to feed troops. When the war ended, surveys found that more than 95% of Gorogonsa's large mammals had vanished. Right after the war, an intrepid team re-entered the Park and began the long process of recovery.  In 2006 the Carr Foundation - invited by the government of Mozambique - launched the Gorongosa Restoration Project. By 2018 many large herbivores had been restored to 95% of their historic abundances and the recovery of lions, wild dogs, and leopards quickly followed.

But, recovery efforts have brought the park back to life. Today, the 1,500 square mile park now boasts over 100,000 large mammals and is a safe haven for many of Africa’s most endangered species. 

Even more remarkable is the role the park plays in the 200,000 lives of those who live in and around it. As the area’s green economic engine, Gorongosa National Park has improved the community’s access to jobs, health care services, schools and after-school educational clubs, water and sanitation (WaSH) and driven sustainable development with eco-tourism, rainforest coffee, honey, cashew and other agro-forestry projects.

Wildlife: African elephant, lion, pangolin (endangered), painted wolves (endangered), hippos, Blue wildebeest, Mount Gorongosa Pygmy Chameleon (endangered

Noteworthy Data Points: 

  • Reintroduced in 2018 with a founder pack of 14 from South Africa, and supplemented with an additional pack in 2019, more than 80 painted wolves roam the park today. 

  • Gorongosa National Park established the nation’s first pangolin rescue facility. Since 2019, over 60 pangolins have been rescued from traffickers, rehabilitated, and returned to the wild.  

  • Started in 2016, Gorongosa National Park has helped establish 50 Girls Clubs serving 2,000 local girls. 

  • As a way to restore its rainforest, Gorongosa coffee farmers planted over 300,000 coffee trees in 2020.  

A woman holds a pangolin, the most trafficked mammal in the world. As part of their work, Gorongosa vets nurse pangolins to health and let them go back in the wild. Photo courtesy Gorongosa National Park.
The release of this leopard, a 3-year-old female relocated from South Africa, is part of the park's plan to restore what once was a thriving population. Photo courtesy Gorongosa National Park.
Elephants at Gorongosa National Park. Photo courtesy Lee Bennett with Gorongosa National Park.
Croatia

Velebit Mountains

Right on the Adriatic coast in Croatia, the Velebit mountain chain is one of the wildest areas of the whole Mediterranean. Photo courtesy Staffan Widstrand  with Rewilding Europe.

Partners: Rewilding Europe 

Fast Facts: Situated on the Adriatic coast of Croatia, the 90-mile long Velebit massif is one of the most important natural areas in the Balkans. 

Velebit is a mosaic of diverse habitats from forests and grasslands to screes and rare aquatic habitats. Home to two national parks, a biosphere reserve, and ancient open lands, this area has been established as one of the finest, wildest, largest, best protected, and most famous wildlife and wilderness areas in Mediterranean Europe. Thanks to rewilding efforts, the Velebit has provided local communities with new sources of income and pride as well as for Croatia as a nation. 

Wildlife: Brown bear, Balkan chamois, red deer, wolf, Eurasian lynx, golden eagle 

Noteworthy Data Points:
 
  • 88 square miles of hunting concessions were purchased and transformed into the Velebit Wildlife Reserve. 

  • Velebit is home to 1854 registered plant species, of which 79 are endemic. 

  • Roaming herds of 87 wild horses graze Velebit’s plains. 

  • There are over 100 bird species in the Velebit area, including golden eagles, peregrine falcon and white-backed woodpecker. 

A mother bear with her cubs. Photo courtesy Nino Salkić with Rewilding Europe.
United States of America

New Jersey Pinelands Reserve

Partner: Pinelands Alliance

Fast Facts: Located in southern New Jersey, the Pinelands National Reserve was established as United States’ first national reserve in 1978. Spanning more than 1,700 square miles across 56 municipalities, the Pinelands unique and rare ecosystems serve as a rare natural refuge in the country’s most densely populated state. 

Nearly 500,000 people live in and profit from the reserve. Agriculture, particularly blueberries and cranberries thrive in the Pinelands. So much so that New Jersey is among the top states in the nation in the production of these fruits.  

Designated an UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, the Pinelands National Reserve protects dozens of rare plant and animal species as well as significant cultural and historical resources. In addition, the reserve lies above one of the country's largest aquifers. The Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer contains enough water to cover all of New Jersey 10 feet deep, and equal to nearly half the water consumed each year in the U.S.  

Through a partnership between the state of New Jersey and the federal government, the Pinelands is one of the most successful models of regional, conservation-based planning in the world. 

An aerial view of a bog in Pinelands National Reserve. Photo courtesy Pinelands Alliance.

Wildlife: Bobcat (endangered), Great horned owl, timber rattlesnake (endangered), wild turkey, Bog turtle (critically endangered), northern red salamander 

Noteworthy Data Points: 

  • The Pinelands is home to 43 animal species that are listed as threatened or endangered by the New Jersey Division of Wildlife. 

  • The Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer system, underlying much of the Pinelands, contains over 17 trillion gallons of some of the purest water in the United States. 

  • The Pinelands National Reserve represents 22% of New Jersey’s total land area. 

  • More than half of the Pinelands (745 square miles) have been permanently protected. 

Mongolia

Snow Leopard Trust

A snow leopard seen on a Mongolian mountainside. Photo courtesy Snow Leopard Trust. 
Volunteer rangers in Mongolia’s Tost area. Photo courtesy Snow Leopard Trust.

Partner: Snow Leopard Trust 

Fast Facts: Through community-based conservation projects, effective partnerships, and the latest science, the Snow Leopard Trust is helping to protect one of the world’s most endangered big cats – the snow leopard.  

Known as the “ghost of the mountains,” snow leopards can be found across 12 countries in the rugged mountains of South and Central Asia. Despite a range of almost 800,000 square miles these cats are quickly disappearing due to poaching, loss of prey, and human-wildlife conflict. For these solitary felines, the situation is dire. Researchers estimate that there are between 3,500 and 7,000 wild snow leopards left. 

But the Snow Leopard Trust is making impact. By employing the latest tech, scientists are collecting an unprecedented amount of data to understand exactly what these elusive cats need. In Mongolia, the Trust worked with community members and politicians to protect prime snow leopard habitat from the threat of mining. Today, this area is part of a national nature reserve. And across the snow leopard range, the Snow Leopard Trust has created incentives for herders to protect local wildlife and ecosystems while also strengthening wildlife enforcement. 

Wildlife: Snow leopard, Argali sheep, Ibex, domestic goats 

Noteworthy Data Points:
 
  • The Snow Leopard Trust has tracked a total of 32 snow leopards with GPS collars over the past 12 years in Mongolia to learn more about their behavior and ecology. 

  • In the Himalayas, snow leopards are usually found between 9,800 feet and 17,700 feet above sea level. 

  • In partnership with communities in Pakistan, the Snow Leopard Trust was able to reduce livestock mortality by up to 50% through vaccination initiatives. 

  • In 2019, 62 communities across Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, India, and Pakistan participated in Snow Leopard Enterprises, a conservation program that creates economic opportunities for families in snow leopard habitats. 

To me the best thing so far in our use of EarthRanger is that it makes it very easy to keep track of where the animals are, and visualize their positions based on their last satellite uplink.

Dr. Gustaf Samelius, Snow Leopard Trust's assistant director of science

Zambia

South Luangwa National Park

An aerial view of South Luangwa National Park.

Partner: Conservation South Luangwa

Fast Facts: Regarded as one of the great unspoiled regions of Africa, Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park lies at the tail end of the Great African Rift Valley system. The lifeblood of this almost 3,500 square mile park is the Luangwa River – the most intact major river system in Africa.  

A wide variety of wildlife congregate and feed along the Luangwa’s banks or its oxbow lagoons. If you can’t see wildlife there, you’ll find them in the park’s magnificent baobab trees or hiding in the thick and lush vegetation that’s a trademark of South Luangwa’s summer months. 

South Luangwa National Park, however, is not without its threats. Poaching, wildlife trafficking, and habitat loss through expanding settlements and farms are among the complex challenges the park face. While natural resources are abundant in this rich ecosystem, they aren’t boundless. Through Conservation South Luangwa’s work, sustainable community-led efforts are ensuring that the wildlife and habitats of this area are protected for future generations.  

Wildlife: African elephant, lion, Cape buffalo, leopard, Thornicroft’s giraffe, Cookson’s wildebeest, Crawshay’s zebra, Vervet monkey, African wild dog (endangered), spotted hyaena

Noteworthy Data Points: 

  • South Luangwa National Park is home to over 60 different animal species and 400 bird species 

  • More than 13,000 hippos live in the park making it among the largest hippo population in Africa. 

  • Conservation South Luangwa has helped construct 143 elephant-safe grain stores to keep maize and other crops protected. 

  • In 2019, Conservation South Luangwa confiscated 66 firearms, 100 elephant tusks and 554 snares.  

Known as the "Valley of the leopard," South Luangwa National Park boasts a large population of the leopards.  
Conservation South Luangwa supports more than 50 scouts who protect the park's abundant wildlife. Photo courtesy Edward Selfe with Conservation South Luangwa.
A hippo seen in one of the park's many lagoons. 
Belize

Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve

Home to jaguars, macaws and the iconic Central American Bairds tapir (seen here), Belize's Tapir Mountain Reserve is a biodiversity hotspot. Photo courtesy Secure Forest Ltd. 

Partner: Secure Forests Ltd. 

Fast Facts: Deep in the jungles of western Belize and located in the foothills of the Maya Mountains, Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve protects more than 6,000 acres of rainforest. The reserve is co-managed by local NGO Belize Karst Habitat Conservation (BKHC) under an agreement with the Belize Forest Department.

Mr. Aaron Juan of BKHC says that the reserve is home to keel-billed toucans, black orchids, mahogany trees, jaguars, the iconic Central American Baird’s tapir, and is a hotspot for biodiversity. But these aren’t the only reasons why Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve is so significance to Belize.
 
Hidden among the reserve’s dense canopy and mountain streams are Maya ruins and mysterious caves, the most famous of these is the Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) cave. The Maya believe that caves are the entrance to the underworld and continue to be places of cultural, spiritual, and ecological significant to the Maya people.  

Sadly however, Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve is coming under increasing threat from illegal logging and poaching. Through the use of modern technology, the BKHC team in partnership with Secure Forests CIC Ltd are planning on utilizing satellite imagery, acoustic sensors and seismic dataloggers, all integrated into the EarthRanger, to protect these important forest habitats. 

Wildlife: Baird’s tapir (endangered), jaguar, keel-billed toucan, Yucatán Black Howler Monkey (endangered

Noteworthy Data Points: 

  • Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve sits on more than 6,000 acres (about 10 miles) of protected land. 

  • Biologists discovered over 100 species of birds and over 90 species of butterflies that live within the reserve. 

  • Scientists estimate the population of the Baird’s tapir have declined more than 50% in the past three generations mainly due to habitat loss and hunting.   

  • Only discovered in 1989, carbon dating and other scientific tools suggest Mayas used the cave systems as far back as the 300 AD.  

Kenya

Ol Pejeta Conservancy

Najin and Fatu, the world's last two remaining northern white rhinos, are guarded by rangers day and night in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy. Photo by Rio the Photographer courtesy Ol Pejeta Conservancy.

Partner: Ol Pejeta Conservancy

Fast Facts: Situated at the foothills of Kenya’s Aberdares range and Mount Kenya, Ol Pejeta Conservancy provides sanctuary for an incredibly diverse wildlife ranging from elephants and rhinos to chimpanzees, oryxes, and zebras. 

In an area of roughly the size of Detroit or Philadelphia, Ol Pejeta is home to 17% of the country’s black rhinos and to the world's last two northern white rhinos. This marks the single largest breeding population of black rhinos, an animal that is both deeply connected to Kenyan national pride and one of the most intensively protected species in the country and throughout the continent. Ol Pejeta is also the only place in Kenya that has chimpanzees. While not native to the country, the conservancy’s Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary serves as lifelong refuge for orphaned or abused chimpanzees. 

Together with researchers, governmental agencies, and organizations, Ol Pejeta is on the forefront of conservation innovation. The conservancy’s in-house Conservation Tech Lab acts as a field-based space to test out new solutions to help the area’s conservation efforts. Opened in May of 2019, the hub has already helped advance the conservancy’s security, data collection, and helped uncover new insights about the wildlife they are protecting.  

Now more than ever, Ol Pejeta recognizes the role a community must play in order for conservation to succeed. Since 2004, the conservancy’s community development program has sought to ensure wildlife conservation translates to better education, healthcare, and infrastructure. From water and sanitation projects to addressing human-wildlife conflicts, the conservancy is focused on improving life for the next generation of wildlife guardians. 

Wildlife: African elephant, northern white rhino (functionally extinct), southern white rhino, black rhino (critically endangered), cheetah (endangered), chimpanzees (endangered), Grevy’s zebra (endangered), African wild dog (endangered)

Noteworthy Data Points: 

  • Since 2017, Ol Pejeta Conservancy has had 0 poaching incidents.

  • The conservancy helped provide 71 local students with full scholarships to area high schools in 2019. 

  • There are 4 main habitats found on Ol Pejeta; grasslands, acacia woodlands, euclea shrub land and riverine woodland. 

  • Lions are the most number of Ol Pejeta’s big cats. There are 6 resident prides bring the total population to 72

EarthRanger can help us figure out those gaps in our patrolling almost in a click of a button and this is critical for us.

Samuel Mutisya, head of wildlife conservation

A chimpanzee seen in Ol Pejeta Conservancy's Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary. Photo courtesy Jaymin Patel with Ol Pejeta Conservancy.
A Thomson's gazelle seen in Ol Pejeta. Photo courtesy Jaymin Patel with Ol Pejeta Conservancy.
Lions are the most numerous of the conservancy's big cats, with six resident prides. Photo courtesy Jaymin Patel with Ol Pejeta Conservancy.
A baby giraffe roams the Ol Pejeta's plains. Photo courtesy Ian Aitken with Ol Pejeta Conservancy.