[ Project Watch ]

Putting Wildlife Crime on the Map

A new open source mapping platform provides a clearer view of where these crimes happen — and, possibly, why.

Bull Elephant

Elephant poaching has become increasingly—and devastatingly—common in many parts of Africa.
Photo by Khakiweed (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

WorldMap is a free, cloud-hosted open source platform that enables anyone to create, publish, and share maps and other geospatial data. Developed by Harvard’s Center for Geographic Analysis (CGA), the WorldMap platform offers users several useful features: it allows the use of large, detailed datasets, in several formats; users can overlay data on their own computers with materials from the Web; and they can also incorporate paper maps and links to other media. It’s a collaborative system, scalable and easy to manage for groups of all sizes. The WorldMap platform is based on a heavily customized version of GeoNode, and uses PostGIS for the backend database.

A project is underway to integrate WorldMap with the Wildlife Enforcement Monitoring System (WEMS) of the United Nations University Institute of Advanced Studies (UNI-IAS). When the integration is complete, anyone – researchers, policymakers, and the general public — will be able to map and track wildlife crime, and will be able to connect that data to a host of socioeconomic data, including ethnicity, income, and environmental conditions.

According to the Harvard Gazette, Wendy Guan, director of GIS Research Services at CGA, expects the new system to assist law enforcement agencies combatting wildlife crime. The goal is to simplify the system for reporting crimes by allowing people to enter data rapidly, which can instantly be added to maps to check its accuracy. This, in turn, will assist law enforcement agencies combatting wildlife crime.

WorldMap is free and available to the public. The software was first released in beta last July—as of February 2013 there are:

  • 7275 registered users
  • 7457 data layers added by users, containing 123,734 data fields
  • 1794 map collections created
  • 318,900 unique visitors coming from every country in the world
  • About 1000 unique visitors per day

Get a video introduction to using the WorldMap platform.


With WorldMap, the data represented on the many layers of this map of Africa can be overlaid onto other maps of the area, such as a map of incidents of wildlife crime, enabling sociologists to get a more comprehensive understanding of the socioeconomic context in which the crimes occur. Explore AfricaMap.

Comments: 2

  1. Its not a very General way of views these facts which are happeing in this world all over and also more important is with this things we will get a clear idea of what we can do to show it on bigger scale

  2. There’s a broken link below the image — Explore AfricaMap. There is a comma before the edu instead of a period.

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