A team of scientists has developed a groundbreaking artificially intelligent (AI) camera trap that could help protect wildlife from poachers.
Researchers at the University of Stirling and start-up Hack the Planet created the AI wildlife camera which connects directly to satellites and alerts rangers in real time to animal-human conflict, poaching, and other illegal activity.
The device is a huge improvement on traditional camera traps that require the footage to be either collected physically or in a place with a reliable internet connection.
The team’s AI-powered wildlife camera instead provides instant alerts without the need for Wi-Fi, long-range radio, or cellular coverage, helping to conserve and protect wildlife from destruction.
Tested in Remote Rainforests
In a study published in Methods in Ecology and Evolution this month, the team explain how they deployed the AI camera trap in the remote rainforest areas of Gabon, Central Africa.
The University of Stirling News reports that the smart camera accurately identified elephants and humans and showed that it could help to detect poachers and prevent human-elephant conflicts that often take place in the African rainforest, among other places.
The AI smart camera trap they have developed can immediately label images and if necessary, send a warning to rangers or a village for example.
The teams programmed the software by feeding it thousands of images of animals and humans to help it recognize threats, which once detected immediately alert the rangers.
The system is also able to prevent conflict between humans and animals by deterring elephants from entering a village in search of food.
During the pilot in the Gabonese rainforest, five camera systems took more than 800 photos in 72 days and 217 photos of elephants were taken.
The AI model achieved an accuracy of 82% in recognizing elephants. Rangers received an alert from the system within seven minutes on average.
While it is not the first time that AI cameras have been used to protect wildlife, it is the first time they have been rigorously tested under the tough conditions of a rainforest.
According to The Times of London, the remote region of Gabon is home to 95,000 critically endangered African forest elephants, roughly 70 per cent of the world’s population.
Their destructive raids on farmers’ fields have prompted widespread protests by farmers, who kill about 50 elephants a year in revenge or self-defense.
A recent study said that tackling the human-elephant conflict in Gabon was of “critical importance to the species’ persistence”.
Image credits: Header photo licensed via Depositphotos.