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Satellite images and aerial surveys give some idea of wildlife populations and patterns of vegetation, but the best way of tracking changes in African national parks is still to go in on foot. But skilled scientists are not always on hand to perform surveys.

A new handheld device, invented by South African Louis Liebenberg, could offer a quick and easy solution, according to this article in The Economist. The CyberTracker is a handheld computer that runs free software and uses Global Positioning Satellite technology to record where each piece of data is collected. The device's symbols and pictures mean that the poorly-literate can use it easily. The invention could enable rangers, park guards and even well-informed tourists to collect important data on biodiversity, pollution and climate change.

The CyberTracker has been introduced to parks in 30 countries across Africa. It has been used to map the damage that elephants cause to trees in a South African national park, deposits of industrial refuse on the coast of Gabon, and the impacts of Ebola virus on populations of gorillas and other wildlife in Congo.

Link to full article in The Economist