Google Street View arrives in Kenya's Samburu National Park

The project will be used by conservationists to track the park's elephant population

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It’s in the arctic, it's in the desert, and now, eight years after Google commenced its quest to photograph every location in the world, it’s in the African bush. Yesterday the internet giant launched Street View in Kenya’s Samburu National Park, in an initiative that’s been welcomed by conservationists.

Cars with panoramic cameras snapped Samburu from every angle. And when the dusty tracks petered out, rangers mounted cameras onto backpacks and entered the bush on foot.

The project, which was launched in collaboration with Save the Elephants, allows internet users to view wild elephant herds close up, anywhere in the world.

These new virtual safaris are great news for anyone who can’t afford the real thing, and ever better news for the park’s 900 elephants, whose newfound fame will galvanise conservation efforts.

“We hope that by bringing Street View to Samburu, we will inspire people around the road to gain a deeper appreciation for Africa’s elephants,” said Farzana Khubchandani of Google Kenya.

Elephant numbers continue to decline amid rampant poaching fuelled by demand for ivory in China, Thailand and Vietnam. Approximately 30,000 elephants have been killed every year for the last half decade. If trends continue, extinction in the wild is less than a century away.

Raising awareness is a crucial step in halting the decline says Moses Lenolkulal, county governor of Samburu: “The more people experience our culture, our people and the majestic elephants and other wildlife with which we co-exist, the more we are able to conserve and sustain the Samburu culture and its fragile ecosystem for generations to come.”