Satellite Images: New Tool for Conservation

ENVIRONMENT

If a picture is worth a thousand words, satellite images may tell a crucial story for conservationists and anyone else looking to protect tigers or other endangered species. (National Geographic News)

Use our resources to better understand big cats and their habitats.

Conservation groups are hoping satellite imagery will help protect habitats of tigers, like this Siberian tiger family in Russia. Photograph by Michael Nichols, National Geographic

Conservation groups are hoping satellite imagery will help protect habitats of tigers, like this Siberian tiger family in Russia.
Photograph by Michael Nichols, National Geographic

Discussion Ideas

  • Look at our MapMaker Interactive, which displays a beautiful map layer of “Big Cat Ranges.” The Nat Geo News article focused on how satellite imagery is helping tiger-conservation groups in Southeast Asia and Russia. What other big cats might benefit from this new conservation technology? Where would conservationists focus their satellites?
    • Tigers are not the only big cat native to Asia. The leopard, clouded leopard, Sunda clouded leopard, and snow leopard are all indigenous to Southern and Central Asia.
    • Africa is the other major home to the world’s big cats. The lion, leopard, and cheetah all have ranges there.
    • Central and South America are home to the jaguar.
    • North and South America’s only big cat is the cougar—also known as the puma, mountain lion, panther, and catamount.
  • All big cats are threatened by habitat loss, which satellite imagery helps document. The Nat Geo News article details why tiger habitat is shrinking—agriculture (tree farms), housing, road construction. Choose another big cat and investigate the primary threats to its habitat, and how satellite imagery could help conservation efforts. Our activities “Investigating Big Cats at Risk” and “Conservation and Big Cats“, as well as the “Meet the Cats” portion of the Panthera website might help you get started.
    • The habitat of the cougar in the Pacific Northwest, for example, is primarily threatened by community development (including housing, shopping malls, and road construction). Satellite imagery could help direct development to preserve cougars’ migration corridors and overall species range.
  • How exactly does satellite imagery help conservation? The Nat Geo News article makes it clear that the satellite data arrives too late to actually put a stop illegal land use, such as unlicensed mining or logging.
    • The images document land use, and can pinpoint specific companies—each pixel represents 50 centimeters (20 inches), “specific enough to identify individual people.” This makes it easier for conservation groups or the government to take companies or individuals to court to fine or jail them, and, possibly, put a stop to future illegal activity.

2 responses to “Satellite Images: New Tool for Conservation

  1. Pingback: Counting Penguins from Space | Nat Geo Education Blog·

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