Tiger populations have successfully rebounded across India and Nepal in recent years. Thousands of them now live outside of wildlife preserves, increasingly closer to villages and potentially bringing them into contact with humans.
To avoid conflict, trail cameras equipped with artificial intelligence (AI) technology are being deployed in affected areas as a safeguarding system between people and tigers.
Research published in BioScience shows that AI trail cameras capable of recognizing big cats can help conservation by alerting park rangers and village leaders to the presence of tigers.
Although tiger attacks on people are a worry, it is livestock that is arguably more of a concern. Roaming cats will prey on villagers’ livestock, affecting their livelihoods.
“Where we’re working, tigers are killing livestock on almost a daily basis,” Jeremy Dertien, a postdoctoral researcher at the German Center for Integrative Biodiversity Research, tells The Wildlife Society.
Dertien, who worked on the research, hopes that the ability to keep track of tigers will help them coexist with humans.
Dertien and his team have been using TrailGuard AI cameras that are small and can be installed almost anywhere.
For the system to work well, the cameras have to operate in real-time and TrailGuard AI has been able to detect wild tigers on cryptic cameras that transmit the images to the smartphones and computers of park rangers in less than 30 seconds.
Another issue with trail cameras is battery life, but the alert system can transmit more than 2,500 images on a single battery charge using cellular communication.
The AI has proven to be accurate, recognizing tigers correctly but also other potentially dangerous animal species like wild boars, panthers, and sloth bears.
The TrailGuard AI cameras also captured a gang of poachers on the Dudhwa Tiger Reserve in India.
Dertien tells The Wildlife Society that park rangers have been asking for more cameras as it helps them keep track of “problem tigers.”
The rangers use WhatsApp to alert village leaders if tigers are roaming in their area and people have livestock out. “People actually get on bikes and blow horns” to warn local residents, Dertien adds.
The technology could also be used in Africa to track poachers rather than wildlife.
Image credits: Header photo partly licensed via Depositphotos.