AI could have a role to play in the fight against poaching

AI could help spot poachers more effectively. — AFP Relaxnews

A Dutch non-profit organisation has developed a smart camera system that can detect poachers and the presence of wild animals in real time. This “camera trap” could prove useful in vast areas, such as national parks in Africa, where rangers are seldom alerted in time.

Hack The Planet, a non-profit organisation based in the Netherlands, has designed a new camera system capable of spotting poachers in real time. This new “camera trap” uses machine learning, and therefore artificial intelligence, to analyse in real time the photos taken by the camera. Using sensors, this system detects the presence of humans, but also animals, and is even capable of distinguishing between different types of animals.

“We developed a smart camera system that can, in real time, track down people or animals in huge remote areas,” Hack the Planet engineer, Thijs Suijten, told Euronews. If a presence is detected, the system sends an immediate alert to the forest rangers, who can then intervene if necessary.

The smart camera is equipped with a satellite uplink, allowing it to stay connected regardless of location, without the need for a WiFi network. Moreover, the system is powered by solar panels, making it particularly energy efficient.

This smart camera could also be used to track wildlife biodiversity through its sensors. Otherwise, it could provide authorities with wildlife alerts, for when elephants are in proximity to residential areas, for example. In fact, these animals can cause problems for residents by entering agricultural areas and trampling plantations.

Hack The Planet’s invention was tested in the Lopé National Park in Gabon during a pilot trial conducted with the University of Stirling in Scotland. The study, which lasted 72 days, found that the smart camera system was capable of operating for at least three months without the need for human intervention.

Over the course of the 72 days, more than 800 photos were taken, including 217 of elephants. The AI was able to achieve 82% accuracy in recognising elephants. The average time from image capture to the receipt of an alert by the rangers was about seven minutes.

According to a recent report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), 2,707 rhinos were killed between 2018 and 2021, mostly in South Africa, where 80% of the world’s rhinos are found. Despite a decline in poaching in recent years, there is still a long way to go to completely eradicate it. These “camera traps” could become one of the solutions. – AFP Relaxnews

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