Google launches Kenya's Samburu Park on Street View

Elephant in Samburu park Image copyright Google Maps
Image caption Ute the elephant is a first-time mother who can been seen through Street View

Google Street View has launched its maps of Kenya's Samburu National Park, which allows internet users to take a virtual safari in the conservancy.

The initiative, launched together with the charity Save the Elephants, wants to promote wildlife conservation.

The project aims to tell the stories of the elephant families in the park.

The Google Street View car drove through the park in February 2015, assuaging any fears that the tool could inadvertently help poachers.

The route follows one of the roads through the 165 sq km (65 sq mile) central Kenyan reserve and does not let the user go off-road.

Elephants, zebra and a leopard can be seen dotted along the way.

The Kenya Tourist board says it is the country's first national park to be accessible in such a virtual way.

"We hope that by bringing Street View to Samburu, we will inspire people around the world to gain a deeper appreciation for elephants," the AFP news agency quotes Google Kenya's Farzana Khubchandani as saying.

The Samburu county governor, Moses Lenolkulal, also attended the ceremonial launch.

"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," he said, AFP reports.

Two of the main families of elephants captured by Street View are the Harwoods and the Spice family who have been identified by the shape of their tusks.

David Daballen, head of field operations at Save the Elephants, wrote in a Google blog post about the launch that he could recognise more than 600 elephants.

He said he hoped the glimpse into the park would inspire people to help with the elephants' plight.

Conservationists say the ivory trade and loss of habitat are putting Africa's elephant population at risk.

According to Save the Elephants, an estimated 100,000 elephants were killed for their ivory in Africa between 2010 and 2012.

Image copyright Google Maps
Image caption Other wildlife, including a leopard, were captured by the Google Street View vehicle
Image copyright Google Maps
Image caption Google Street View also went to an elephant orphanage in Nairobi National Park

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