State-of-the art remote sensing to the rescue of a major habitat crisis in Virunga National Park
The Virunga National Park (VNP), Democratic Republic of the Congo, recently benefited from satellite technology to help overcome unprecedented man-made damages to its natural habitats.
Evidence of extensive habitat destruction and land conversion by shepherds was shown in reports compiled in June 2004. Approximately 6,000 people accompanied by Rwandan soldiers were said to have moved into the Mikeno sector of VNP, rapidly chopping down expanses of bamboo and alpine forests.
This widespread habitat fragmentation took a heavy toll on wildlife.
Thanks to satellite imagery, evidence was obtained to show the state of the land before and after the invasion. These images revealed that 700 ha of forest had been cleared. A month later, a second image from the same satellite showed that 1,500 ha of former forest had been occupied by cattlemen and large herds of livestock.
The satellite images were presented before international bodies (UNESCO and the governments of Belgium, the United States and Rwanda) to ensure that political pressure would end the invasion and help resolve the Mikeno ecological disaster.
In a politically unstable climate, the objectivity and irrefutability of the images were crucial, leaving no room to manipulate or deny factual evidence.