Date Published

Tuesday 15th September 11.00 GMT

People living anywhere in the world are now able to explore the East African savannah without leaving home. Kenya’s Samburu National Reserve has just opened to online visitors using Street View in Google Maps. Through Google’s partnership with Save the Elephants anyone can now take a safari through the reserve, meet the wildlife and learn about elephants.

Google’s latest 360-degree imagery collection system was deployed in early 2015 to allow a global audience to appreciate the beauty of elephants, the reserve’s other wildlife and the wider ecosystem. During the image collection Google’s Skybox satellite system also took video footage from space, as shown in this 1-minute film.

“Samburu is an elephant paradise. Thanks to the culture of the Samburu people the elephants here are unusually tame and trusting, and that’s allowed us to study them more deeply than almost anywhere else in Africa. It’s exciting to be joining hands with Google to open a window into our home and its majestic natural beauty,” said Iain Douglas-Hamilton, founder of Save the Elephants.

Visitors to Samburu Street View are able to roam on a self-directed journey through the reserve, bumping into lions, Samburu warriors on the march and even a leopard heading out on a hunt. Along the way they can stop in at the Save the Elephants Research Camp, or head upriver to explore Elephant Watch Camp where the ongoing BBC TV series This Wild Life was based.

The project is part of Google Earth Outreach’s commitment to giving knowledge and resources to nonprofit organizations like Save the Elephants so they are able to visualize their cause, tell their story and capture the place that they work in unprecedented, lifelike detail and share it with the world.

Save the Elephants is at the heart of a global coalition of organisations engaged in trying to end the ongoing ivory crisis in which over 100,000 elephants killed in just three years between 2010 and 2012. Without urgent action, elephants could disappear from the wild within a generation. Save the Elephants uses Google Earth to display elephant movements in near-real time, enabling security managers to plan effective ranger deployment, communities to understand the wildlife that they live among and scientists to decipher elephant needs and design wildlife corridors between protected areas.

People will also be able to travel an elephant corridor near the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, built to avoid human-elephant conflict and help the elephants migrate under a freeway underpass, as well as experience The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, where orphaned elephants are cared for in Nairobi.

“We hope that by bringing street view to Samburu, we will inspire people around the world to gain a deeper appreciation for elephants and complement the efforts of organisations such as Save the Elephants. Today’s launch not only brings us closer to our ultimate goal of creating the world’s most comprehensive, accurate and usable maps, but also brings the beauty of Kenya to the world,” said Google Kenya Country Marketing Manager, Farzana Khubchandani.

Stories of the elephant families studied by Save the Elephants, as well as other notable scenes in Samburu can be explored through 360-degree panoramas known as Story Spheres, with a wider selection of panoramas are available here, while an immersive guided exploration is presented on Google’s celebrated Treks page. Finally, a 10-minute mini-documentary tells the story of the pivotal role of Samburu’s communities in the conservation of this iconic landscape.

About Save the Elephants
Save the Elephants (STE) works to secure a future for elephants in a rapidly changing world. To battle the current surge in ivory poaching, the STE/WCN Elephant Crisis Fund is identifying and supporting the most effective global partners to stop poaching, thwart traffickers and end demand for ivory. Leaders in elephant science, STE also provides cutting-edge scientific insights into elephant behavior, intelligence, and long-distance movement and applies them to the long-term challenges of elephant conservation.