The world of nature is fascinating; there’s no denying that. But unfortunately, nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history, and the rate of species becoming extinct is accelerating.
According to a report from the UN, one million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction, many within decades.
As a huge animal lover, I was intrigued by a recent article in the Financial Times on how technology is transforming wildlife conservations, in particular how it’s being used to track and stop poaching – something that is contributing to the rapid decline in animal species.
Reading the article got me questioning how else technology is being used across the globe to protect the lives of animals. Artificial intelligence (AI) in particular seems to play a key role. From analysing animal photos to combing through YouTube, AI-enabled software is harnessing data that data scientists can use to make a real difference.
Here are just some examples of how technology is becoming a hero in the animal kingdom:
Catching the poachers
WWF has estimated that the illegal wildlife trade is worth about $20bn a year, contributing to a catastrophic decline in some species. Thanks to advancements in cameras and AI systems, wildlife conservations have the ability to detect poachers and, in turn, prevent trapping and killing.
For example, a Wildlife conservation in Kenya is using a poaching alarm system developed by the Zoological Society of London. The poachers’ guns and knives trigger the system’s metal detector, which activates a camera camouflaged in a bush.
The images travel by radio to a base station and then via a communications satellite to the park headquarters, alerting the authorities in time to dispatch rangers and catch the poachers.
Drones are being used around the world to gather data about hard-to-track species, such as Australia’s koala or Sumatra’s orangutans.
The drones are able to keep an eye on vulnerable populations of animals in different areas, and also carry programming sensors that can identify animals through visual and thermal imagery. They’re even designed to take into account variables like colour, shape and size.
Predictive analytics for wildlife
Predictive analytics software is being used to collect a large amount of complex data about wildlife, including an animal’s location, what people think about a species, reasons why they are hunted, and how everything from education level to access to medicines impacts their decisions.
Having access to this data is enabling animal researchers to identify the best areas to focus on conservation efforts, and may even become a key way to save some species.
It’s extremely exciting to see how technology is enabling us to save some of our most precious wildlife and come up with better solutions for conservation. While it’s great to see technology like AI and machine learning making a huge impact in our day-to-day lives, it’s even better to see just how it’s being used to keep the world of nature as beautiful and diverse as it is today.