You know the saying “Think global, act local” well NASA has taken it to heart and has been aiding in the conservation of endangered species by providing a space-level perspective to conservation. Recently NASA partnered with the Jane Goodall Institute to identify key areas of habitat destruction and threat to chimpanzees. Using satellite imagery, NASA was able to provide vital information to conservationists on the ground to focus on key areas where chimpanzees need the most help.
Satellite images were able to show that over the course of 30 years, 80% of the forests around Gombe National Park had been destroyed. In a talk in 2011 Jane Goodall recalls viewing the destruction with her own eyes, “We flew over … and it was absolutely horrifying to me to see that. Yes, I knew there was deforestation outside the park but I had not realized it was total deforestation.” These images helped conservationists understand that the chimpanzee populations were essentially being cornered into the small amount of protected land.
Having access to the satellite images allowed conservationists and researchers to overlay their data on chimpanzee distribution and behaviour in and around Gombe National Park. By combining these two data sets, they were able to pinpoint areas that desperately needed protection and conservation work.
The satellite images also allowed them to have a new tool to communicate with communities close to the park. It was obvious that the villages nearby were also suffering because of the deforestation. Being able to show community members the destruction on such a large scale prompted people to organize themselves and become engaged in the conservation process.
By combining different technologies we can work together to make the world a better place for all of us! Maybe we need to go into space to understand just how lucky we are to have our Earth.