You can now experience Kenya's Samburu National Park via Google Maps Street View. This virtual safari within the 64-square-mile Kenyan conservancy, filled with wild animals galore, is just a couple of clicks away. And you don't even need to find the animals on Street View yourself. Google Maps has an extensive description of the project with links (which read "Explore this place") that guide you to the proper Street View position.
The Google Street View car drove through the park in February 2015 and follows one road. Unfortunately it does no let you veer off this main road. But it's still quite magical "” and quite bizarre "” to see elephants, zebra and a leopard on Street View.
The project's goal is to tell the stories of the elephant herds in the park. Head of Marketing for Google Kenya, Farzana Khubchandani, explained, "We hope that by bringing Street View to Samburu, we will inspire people around the world to gain a deeper appreciation for elephants."
Google dreamed up the initiative with Save the Elephants, an organization that conducts research on elephant behavior and ecology, and the Samburu County Government. Save the Elephants has pioneered GPS radio tracking in Africa to provide insight into the life of elephants and have monitored the Samburu National Park for over eighteen years. Their data assists the United Nations in tackling the epidemic of illegal killing of elephants.
Elephants of Google Street View, LiveScience.com
The ivory trade (mainly from Africa into China) and loss of habitat have put Africa's elephant population at risk. One hundred thousand African elephants were killed by poachers within a three-year period (2010-2012) and Central Africa has lost 64 percent of its elephants in a decade. David Daballen, head of field operations at Save the Elephants, hopes the glimpse into the park would inspire people to help with the elephants' plight.
Samburu country governor Moses Lenolkulal told the AFP, "The more people experience our culture, our people and the majestic elephants and other wildlife with which we co-exist, the more we are able to conserve and sustain the Samburu culture and its fragile ecosystem for generations to come."
Although this is the first time that Google has used Street View for the display of African animals, Google and Save the Elephants have a history together. Google Earth, a free, downloadable virtual globe, map and geographical information program, has assisted Save the Elephants for over a decade in order to create the ultimate tool to visualize elephant movements.
Elephants on Google Earth, National Geographic
Google Earth also has a National Geographic feature that allows you to browse photographs taken at specific African sites. If you turn on the "National Geographic" layer under the "Gallery" tab, little red airplanes appear. These mark Nat Geo's "Africa Megaflyover:" images taken by the magazine's photographer, Mike Fay. According to Google's Blog there are 500 discoverable images.