Mountain gorillas are close human relatives. However, hunting and the destruction of forests are threatening them with extinction.
Today only a few hundred of these magnificent animals still survive in Central Africa. Even though the forests where they live are now meant to be protected, the gorillas remain under threat.
Long-term regional unrest has driven refugees into the mountains. This has led to illegal poaching and forest clearances.
To help the animals, ESA took part in an international project called “Build Environment for Gorilla” (BEGo). Also involved was the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).
Virtually overflying Volcanoes National Park using BEGo data
Between 2002 and 2005, satellites such as ERS-2 and Envisat provided pictures and other information for conservation groups and local officials. The images highlighted changes in land use in the huge, remote areas where the gorillas live.
Maps and 3-D models of the landscape were made by combining satellite data with ground observations.
The first detailed maps of tree types were also produced from space observations. These enable researchers to find out more about how the gorillas use the forest as they travel from place to place. By understanding the animals’ habits, it is easier for the authorities to take care of them.