Human-wildlife conflict is becoming increasingly common worldwide, often caused by growing urban footprints, community displacement and agricultural expansion. Organizations like Space for Giants, a new Maxar customer, play a critical role in monitoring these impacts, taking a data-driven approach to monitor the situation and delivering conservation solutions that ensure positive outcomes for the local communities and wildlife populations.

One of the most important tools available to these organizations is geospatial data, which can provide valuable intelligence about what’s happening on the ground in a fast, cost-effective way. To learn more about the power of this data, we spoke with Space for Giants’ Peter Trevor, Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve Manager, to hear more about the organization’s mission and how they’re using Maxar’s high-resolution satellite imagery.

The Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve covers more than 2,220 sq km of land and is one of the largest national protected areas in Uganda.

Q: Can you tell us more about your work across Africa?

Peter: Space for Giants works across Africa’s iconic landscapes to unlock the full value of nature by protecting biodiversity and remaining populations of megafauna while expanding economic, cultural and social value for generations to come. We are headquartered in Kenya and work across 10 African countries. We just recently opened a new office in Gabon and plans are underway to open offices in Uganda and Mozambique. We bring the discipline of good management, conservation investment and adaptive innovation to the areas where we work to stop degradation and restore and expand landscapes through a combination of public and private management strategies. Driven by local context, we draw on the expertise of our teams to address conservation landscapes and investment, wildlife law and justice, conservation science, human-wildlife coexistence and frontline protection.

Q: How will you use Maxar’s geospatial data to support your work?

Peter: Space for Giants has in-house geographic information systems (GIS) resources. We use geospatial data for several purposes, including:

  • Monitoring various conservation-related components such as human-wildlife conflict incidences, law enforcement and patrol efforts, understanding wildlife movements in space and time, fire occurrences in a landscape
  • Spatial and temporal assessments of landscapes for effective conservation planning and management
  • Using remote sensing to understand the carbon generation potential of a landscape

One example of how we plan to use Maxar data is for the Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve (PUWR). There are permanent settlements in the north of PUWR, Uganda, around Mt. Napak, as well as high-density settlements on the periphery. The communities located within PUWR around Mt. Napak initially settled in 2010 due to displacement driven by regional insecurity, and it is now estimated that between 1,000 and 3,000 individuals live within the reserve. The origins of these people, the duration they have lived there, and their concerns and opinions are all largely unknown. Engaging with these stakeholders will be a critical first step to understanding their land use and building community relations, especially given our desire to ensure human rights are respected.

Maxar’s high-resolution satellite imagery will help with the mapping of settlements and agriculture in PUWR. The mapping exercise will inform where these communities are and how many households exist, as well as the extent of agricultural activities. These insights will form a foundation for future socioeconomic baseline studies and community engagements.

Space for Giants is using Maxar’s high-resolution satellite imagery to support mapping of settlements and agriculture in the Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve.

Q: What does this geospatial data enable you to do that you couldn’t do before?

Peter: This data allows us to assess human activities in very remote, protected areas. Many of the communities we are focused on are inaccessible by road. Without satellite data, the only way to locate and map these settlements would be through an aerial survey using a chartered flight or manually on the ground, both extremely time-consuming and expensive. Using recently collected high-resolution satellite imagery allows us to map these communities remotely and save important human and financial resources. A bonus of our contract with Maxar is that we have continuous access to satellite imagery worldwide based on what is available in the archive. This subscription allows us to monitor changes in land use over a year or multiyear period, and we are very excited about this opportunity.

Ostriches are one of the many animals found in the Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve in Uganda. Credit: Space for Giants, 2023.

Q: Besides Uganda, are there other regions where you plan to use this data?

Peter: Space for Giants is involved in a number of projects aimed at managing and mitigating human-wildlife conflict, primarily focused on three countries—Kenya, Uganda and Gabon. Our multifaceted approach to solving complex human-wildlife conflict is hinged on the ability to accurately map human settlements and monitor human activities within or near close boundaries of wildlife habitats. All our projects are interconnected in that we apply learnings from one to another. For example, being able to accurately quantify and report on the human-wildlife conflict in the Laikipia landscape in Kenya has helped us refine our approach over time, and we’ve applied those same learnings to work in several protected areas in Uganda and Gabon.

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