Real-time AI threat detection cameras will help to combat the threat of wildlife poaching on the African continent, it is believed. They are a significant improvement on traditional camera traps because images from the AI cameras are transmitted directly to satellites from where they are relayed to rangers’ monitors enabling them to take immediate action. A problem, however, as I see it with this technology is that it is reactive. A lot of conservation is reactive. We need to tackle the root cause of these problems in order to take proactive steps. That’s much harder and it will be a long-term solution but much the better solution. What is it? It is tackling human population growth in Africa and commercial exploitation of the riches that it has to offer.
Everything happens in real time rather than in a delayed manner as previously. Footage and pictures from conventional camera traps have to be collected physically or the cameras have to be positioned in a place where there is an Internet connection.
A team of British scientists have developed this new system. A spokesman for Stirling University which developed the cameras with the start-up Hack the Planet said:
“Using AI-powered wildlife cameras could fix this issue [the issue of delay] by providing instant alerts without the need for Wi-Fi, long-range radio or cellular coverage, helping better conserve, protect and restore ecosystems as a result.”
They programme the cameras by feeding in thousand images of animals and humans (poachers) which enables the AI software to recognise the sort of scenario and imagery which indicates poaching is taking place.
Tim van Deursen (who I believe is the person in the photograph), founder of Hack the Planet said:
“Our solution does not depend on the installation of additional network infrastructure in the landscape and can be deployed in the field by non-experts anywhere in the world.”
It is the first time that this sort of technology has been deployed and tested in rainforests. They were tested in remote areas of the Gabon rainforest which is the home to 95,000 critically endangered African forest elephants. Comment: I’m surprised that this species of elephant is described as critically endangered seeing as there are 95,000 of them! Not that I am against categorising them as critically endangered. I’m just commenting because there are some small wild cat species which are not categorised in the same way despite population numbers being far lower.
The forest elephants of Gabon appear to be threatened not so much by poachers looking for ivory but retaliation by farmers as the elephants move onto farmland. Farmers kill about 50 elephants a year in revenge or self-defence.
Resolving the human-elephant conflict is crucially important to the survival of the species. A compensation scheme is in place as I understand it.
There is more elephant-human conflict in Kenya because of the worst drought in 40 years which is causing hungry elephants to raid farms and homesteads. This results in retaliation and this form of elephant killing has overtaken killings by poachers.
In 72 days, 800 photographs were taken by the AI threat detection cameras in Gabon of which 217 were of elephants.
The AI cameras have an accuracy rate of 82%. The rangers normally receive an alert in under seven minutes.
Lee White, Gabon’s Minister of water, forests, the sea and environment, said that fewer rangers would die as a result of this technology and more poachers would be caught.
Van Deursen also said:
“With this pilot we have demonstrated that our AI-powered camera technology works and can have a positive effect on nature conservation.”