Seeing a Better World™

DigitalGlobe Helps Combat Elephant Poaching in Africa with Geospatial Analysis

By DigitalGlobe | Published:

Utilizing Signature Analyst™, DigitalGlobe’s advanced geospatial terrain analysis tool, DigitalGlobe analysts were able to hone in on the most susceptible areas for poaching activity within each of the four poaching areas of operation and identify a new area that shares a similar geospatial signature with historic hot spots. The total area reduction represents a 98% reduction in the overall park and a 95% reduction within the historic poaching zone.

















A new report published by DigitalGlobe Inc. (NYSE: DGI), African Parks, Enough Project and the Satellite Sentinel Project details how the use of satellite imagery and predictive analytics is helping park rangers combat illegal elephant poaching in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Garamba National Park.

The African elephant population has declined by more than 50 percent in the past 30 years, and poachers are killing the elephants of Garamba at an unprecedented pace. Since mid-April 2014, park rangers have found the carcasses of 131 elephants, slaughtered for their ivory tusks that can sell for tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars on the black market.

Unlike in the past, when criminal gangs carried out most of the poaching, the main actors appear to be heavily armed groups using professional techniques, some of which have been involved in Central Africa’s many conflicts and have carried out atrocities against civilians, creating much misery and suffering over the past decade.

For Garamba’s rangers, tracking poachers through the vast park is daunting and dangerous. The park itself spans an area of about 4,920 square kilometers. With limited resources, rangers face the daunting task of tracking elusive groups of poachers who use stealth and an intimate knowledge of the terrain.

Working with the Enough Project and African Parks, which manages Garamba on behalf of the Congolese government, DigitalGlobe analysts were given the location and date of the elephant remains discovered between 2011 and 2013, elephant collar data, ranger patrol routes, and the locations of known poacher camps. Using this data, analysts conducted historical geospatial trend analysis, cost surface travel analysis, key terrain analysis, and predictive analysis using DigitalGlobe’s Signature Analyst™ geospatial analytic software.

The analysis revealed areas of the park that share similar geospatial characteristics with the locations of previous poaching sites, where future poaching incidents are most likely to occur. The result was a 98% reduction in the area of the park in which poaching is likely to occur, including a 95% reduction in the area of the historical poaching zone.

“By focusing on the many geospatial factors that make some areas of the park more vulnerable to poaching than others, we can extrapolate that data to predict where poachers may strike next,” said Heath Rasco, DigitalGlobe senior geospatial scientist. “This information is being used to focus scarce patrol resources and establish checkpoints at key access points to poaching hot spots.”

To learn more, visit our interactive site, or download the full report, “Poachers without Borders: New Satellite Imaging and Predictive Mapping to Empower Park Rangers and Combat Ivory Traffickers in Garamba National Park.

Visual Evidence of Human Rights Abuse on the Ground in Nigeria

By DigitalGlobe | Published:

After on-the-ground reports about a mass killing of civilians carried out by Boko Haram in early January, Amnesty International set out to verify the authenticity of the reports and understand the scale of the atrocities.

Limited by the isolation of the towns and the scattered testimonies of witnesses on the ground, Amnesty International worked with DigitalGlobe to analyze two towns, Baga and Doron Baga (also known as Doro Gowon), before and after the reported attacks. DigitalGlobe captured images of the areas on January 2, 2015, using the GeoEye-1 satellite and again on January 7, 2015, using the WorldView-2 satellite. With the unique view that can be safely collected from 400 miles up in space, analysts at DigitalGlobe provided visual evidence of the scale of last week’s attacks by Boko Haram militants.

In the space of four days, our analysts identified that the attacks left over 3,700 structures damaged or completely destroyed. The destruction shown in these images is consistent with the ground testimonies that Amnesty International has gathered. Interviews carried out by Amnesty with eyewitnesses as well as with local government officials and human rights activists suggest that Boko Haram militants shot hundreds of civilians during these attacks.

DigitalGlobe satellite imagery of Baga from January 7, 2015, shows over 620 structures damaged or destroyed predominantly located in the southern portion of Baga. Vehicle activity is present along the main road, including a probable armored vehicle stationed at a road block close to the center of town. The yellow dots represent damaged or destroyed structures. The red color indicates healthy vegetation.

DigitalGlobe satellite imagery of Doron Baga from January 7, 2015, shows evidence of over 3,100 burned structures. Vehicles are also present in town and along the shores of Lake Chad. The yellow dots represent damaged or destroyed structures. The red color indicates healthy vegetation.

“Up until now, the isolation of Baga combined with the fact that Boko Haram remains in control of the area has meant that it has been very difficult to verify what happened there. Residents have not been able to return to bury the dead, let alone count their number. But through these satellite images combined with graphic testimonies a picture of what is likely to be Boko Haram’s deadliest attack ever is becoming clearer,” said Daniel Eyre, Nigeria researcher for Amnesty International, in a report published by the organization.

As this recent tragedy proves, satellite imagery and analysis are invaluable tools for monitoring human right’s abuses for several reasons. In places like Baga, satellites can reduce risks to lives on the ground by providing documentation of atrocities without the need to put additional researchers in harm’s way to collect witness testimonies in areas threatened by Boko Haram.

DigitalGlobe’s Seeing a Better World Program leverages satellite imagery and analysis to provide hard-to-refute visual context of the scale of destruction, validating witness testimonies that might otherwise be brushed aside by local entities looking to minimize the damage.

“This week, Nigeria’s Director of Defence Information stated that the number of people killed in Baga including Boko Haram fighters ‘has so far not exceeded about 150’. These images, together with the stories of those who survived the attack, suggest that the final death toll could be much higher than this figure,” said Eyre.

Before (January 2, 2015) and after (January 7, 2015) satellite imagery from DigitalGlobe shows the extent of damage in Doron Baga following the Boko Haram attack. Red areas indicate healthy vegetation in both images. The January 2 image shows an example of the densely packed structures and tree cover in Doron Baga. The January 7 image shows almost all of the structures razed, with the inset demonstrating the level of destruction of most of structures in the town.

DigitalGlobe Satellite Imagery and Analysis Transforming Livelihoods of Smallholder Farmers in the Developing World

By DigitalGlobe | Published:

Reshaping crop-based production systems in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia

DigitalGlobe, Inc. (NYSE: DGI) is partnering on a two-year initiative to demonstrate the efficacy of very high-resolution satellite imagery and derived information in monitoring the nature and condition of smallholder farms, enabling farmers to increase crop yields through enhanced precision agriculture, facilitating improved access to land, and informing better policy choices that benefit smallholder farmers.

Smallholder farmers depend on growing their own crops as the primary source of their livelihoods. (Photo Attribution: Stephen Morrison/AusAID)

Through its Seeing a Better World™ Program, DigitalGlobe is partnering with scientists of STARS Project (Spurring a Transformation for Agriculture through Remote Sensing) to provide better information in order to increase productivity and decrease vulnerability for millions of family farmers who often have plots of land no bigger than a football field, and may face insecure tenure on that land. Satellite imagery is the ultimate force multiplier for smallholder farmers, who today have few options to diagnose crop health, identify appropriate responses, forecast expected production, or access credit and financial services to improve their productivity.  DigitalGlobe’s very high-resolution, super-spectral imagery provides many key agricultural data points, such as water availability, the nitrogen content of plants, crop vigor, and evidence of continued care of the land over time that could be used for collateral.

Under the initiative that began in early 2014, DigitalGlobe is providing information derived from its visible and very near-infrared satellite imagery to monitor crop growth at the level of the farm plot of the smallholder farms found in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Our ultimate goal is improving estimates of crop yield as the season progresses, and generating better, evidence-based advisories for on-farm and around-farm practices such as those by extension services and the private farm inputs sector.

Technological advances in remote sensing have created a unique opportunity for implementing smarter solutions for smallholder farmers globally.

At the macro level, satellite imagery can inform regional or national governments about the volume and location of various crops across vast agricultural areas.  For example, the private sector and extension services require location-based farming information to optimize their operations; and national food security agencies need early forecasts of the expected production to allow optimal use of national food acquisition budgets.  Therefore, imagery products can help produce improved statistics and anticipate harvests so that appropriate trade policies can be selected and areas of surplus can be mobilized to supply areas of deficit, preventing food shortages and hunger.

The DigitalGlobe whitepaper “Remote Sensing Technology Trends and Agriculture” provides a more in-depth look at the technological advancements in remote sensing, cloud computing, mobile technology, and GPS techniques that have created a unique opportunity for implementing smarter solutions for smallholder farmers globally.  This publication is based on research funded in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.