Satellite Stories: Ol Pejeta reveals a fascinating slice of life within the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in central Kenya, through movement models of 11 animal species over a 7 day period.
Supported by a grant from the National Geographic Society, Satellite Stories allows you to explore the landscape and swoop down into the action to discover incredible stories of the animals at one of Kenya's most iconic wildlife conservancies.
“Satellite Stories - Ol Pejeta” is the first in a series of interactive data visualizations that depict life in the world’s wild places through the movement of their animals. The movement, distribution and population of each species modelled in Satellite Stories are based on real data, and correspond to what you might actually see if you were to fly over Ol Pejeta Conservancy with eagle eye vision.
Ol Pejeta was chosen as a pilot location due to its high population densities and diversity of wildlife and because of the intimate knowledge the Ol Pejeta staff have of the wildlife within its boundaries. In future releases of Satellite Stories, we hope to tell the stories of other fascinating places such as the Pantanal in Brazil, the Himalayas, or the Alaskan wilderness, and depict a wider variety of species, including birds, reptiles, and even marine species, while deepening the overall user experience.
We would like to thank Ol Pejeta Conservancy and the National Geographic Society for supporting this initial effort.
Navigation. Satellite Stories can be navigated using the mouse and keyboard:
> Camera movement: WASD and Arrow keys
> Camera rotation: Q and E
> Camera zoom: + and -
> Camera movement: Left-mouse button and drag
> Camera rotation: Right-mouse button and drag
> Camera zoom: Scroll-wheel
Stories can be initiated by selecting from the story list in sidebar, or by using the 'Story Available' labels placed on the terrain at specific times.
Animals are ever-present on the terrain, represented by coloured dots. They can be identified by rolling over specific dots and by using the Animal list in the sidebar. Clicking any animal will zoom the camera towards it.
Timeline and playback speed
You can control time by selecting and dragging the playhead on the timeline. You can change the speed of playback by selecting ‘playback speed' to cycle through the available options (slowest, slow, normal, fast, fastest)
Subtitles / Closed captions can be toggled in the settings menu, which can be opened by selecting the cog icon in the bottom-right of the user interface.
We are endeavouring to support fully accessible keyboard control of the user interface as the product develops.
Satellite Stories: Ol Pejeta is currently optimised to work on most mid- to high-end desktop computers. As a guideline, the following system specifications are recommended:
> Operating system: Windows 10 or OS X El Capitan (10.11)
> Graphics: Graphics card with DX10 (shader model 4.0) capabilities
> CPU: SSE2 instruction set support
> Software: Any recent desktop version of Firefox, Chrome or Edge that supports WebGL
Not currently supported:
> We do not currently support mobile or touch-only devices
> Windows 7 and 8 do support Chrome and Firefox, but not Edge
> Chromebooks are not recommended for Unity WebGL
> Internet Explorer 11 and all versions of Safari are not supported on any device
If you find any particular performance or technical issues please do let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we'll be very happy to help.
Welcome to Satellite Stories: Ol Pejeta; A birds-eye view of a week of wildlife in the savannahs of central Kenya.
This is a model of the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, and shows the movement and populations of some of the animals who make these 300 square kilometers their home.
Now look around, explore the action, and discover accounts of some of the incredible things that happen here every day.
The busy corridors of the conservancy.
The fence around Ol Pejeta is carefully designed to enclose some animals, while allowing others to move freely in and out of the conservancy. It's all about maintaining balance, you see.
Just like what’s happening here, lots of Ol Pejeta’s animals pass through these gaps to look for food and mates.
But for these rhinos, things are a bit different. There's a dangerously high risk of poaching if they leave, so they're much safer inside the conservancy.
Look! They can't cross. This is down to an inventive method devised by conservationists. There are carefully placed stumps across the gap, which are low enough for other animals to hop over. But rhinos are too wide to fit through, and they certainly can't jump, so they're staying put where it's safe. Clever hey?
An Elephant Never Forgets
The 90 kilometer electric fence surrounding Ol Pejeta helps keep a necessary distance between the animals and humans nearby.
Given the chance, animals like these grazing zebras would wander in to neighbouring farms. And in to trouble.
The fence is mostly successful. But this old elephant bull finds those delicious crops just too tempting.
Over the years this ingenious old gentleman has developed a way to break through the electric fence under the cover of darkness. He wants his midnight feast of maize.
But over time, an unspoken agreement has developed. Once the Ol Pejeta rangers have seen him, they flash their lights, and that's his signal to leave. And here we go, look. They must have spotted him, because he's heading back in to the conservancy. Until next time, that is…
It's well known that cheetahs are one of the fastest animals on land, but before the thrill of the chase there is complete calm; this cheetah has been watching its prey for an hour, patiently waiting for the right time to strike.
When they do strike, cheetahs can reach around 100 kilometers per hour in just 3 seconds…
Here we go…!
The cheetah is a short distance sprinter, and if a chase goes beyond a few hundred metres, the gazelle can out-run him.
See, he's tired and fallen behind.
Just like this chase, many end in failure for cheetahs: only about 60% end in a kill. And this exhausted runner will need a rest before trying again.
… The Furious
Lions! The kings and queens of Ol Pejeta. Like the pride we can see here, lions are the only truly social cats.
Cooperating as a group means a pride can take down prey much larger than themselves… sometimes up to 10 times the size of a single lion!
Now - look at the group separate. The females do all the work on a hunt…. and these ones have spotted a herd of plains zebras.
Some creep forward to surround their prey, while others hang back.
And they're off! Unlike cheetahs, lions rely on stealth, power and teamwork to hunt. And look - with barely a chase to be seen, they've bought down that unsuspecting zebra.
And now they've got their catch these females will feast together, while they wait for rest of the pride - and their cubs - to join them.
A Tale of Two Zebras
Plains zebras like these ones here are social animals. One dominant male – the stallion – tends to a harem of up to six females and their young.
But it gets more complex. Like what's happening here: multiple harems and stallions come together and form massive groups – hundreds of animals strong – to eat grass and search for water.
But see this one. It's different. This one's a Grevy's zebra. They're becoming extremely rare. Only 2,000 or so exist in the wild, and most of them are right here in Kenya.
Unlike the plains zebras, Grevy's zebras don't socialise much. Watch this one wandering off. This is exactly what territorial males do.
Grevy's can go a few days without drinking. And because they don't need to visit water holes as often as plains zebras, they can travel up to 35 kilometers away from water sources in search of good grass. Long live the lone rangers.
Sleep. Eat. Repeat.
For these Ol Pejeta hippos, daytime means keeping out of the scorching sun in the waters of the Ewaso Nyiro river.
But look, see that! As soon as the sun drops they all wade out of the water and in to the surrounding darkness.
They're starting their nightly ritual.
Spending every night away from their territory, they can travel as far as 10 kilometers, and eat a staggering 35 kilograms of their favourite food… grass. Yes - they really do get to be one of the world's largest land animals, just by eating plain old grass.
And there you go, see, before the sun starts to rise they're on their way back to the river to rest and start all over again.
Creatures of the Night
As the sun sets over Ol Pejeta, some animals like these gazelles huddle together for the night.
But other creatures are most active in the dark. Look, this one is emerging from its underground burrow where it has been sleeping.
This is an aardvark, and it's venturing out to find food. You see it zig-zagging about? It's using its big ears and keen sense of smell to find ants and termites. It can eat over 50,000 in one night!
And here's a zorilla. Just like skunks they spray foul-smelling scent to deter predators. This one is busy searching for rodents and insects to eat.
Ah! The aardwolf. This isn't actually a type of wolf, but a small and elusive hyena. Like the aardvarks, it's using its acute hearing and strong sense of smell to find termites.
Along with the lions and hippos, these are some of the smaller and stranger creatures that own the night at Ol Pejeta. And for them, it's insects for dinner all round.
Satellite Stories: Ol Pejeta was made using Unity3D for WebGL. Animal movement models were created using R and QGIS. Internet of Elephants would like to extend a huge thanks to everyone who contributed to the project:
Core development team
David Kamunyu, Bryan Kamunyu, Victor Ngugi, Nicolle Richards, Samson Wawire, Kate Kimani, Ken Kariuki, Flo Maingi, Daniel Muli, Ray Gicharu, Mariana Prietto, Iona Haines, Francisco Beesley, Claudia Chow, Lee Razo, Oona Simone, Tali Bielski, Seton Beggs, Melissa Arostegui, EdLab - Teachers College Columbia University
Special thanks to the National Geographic Society for supporting this project, Dr. Blair Costelloe at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology for her drone footage of the area, and the fantastic team at Ol Pejeta - Benard Gituku, Samuel Mutisya, Elodie Sampere and all the rangers - for their support, expertise and access.