In recent years, camera technology has played a crucial role in wildlife conservation. Camera traps or trail cameras are regularly used to help monitor, track and identify animal populations but data collected from traditional camera traps is usually stored on a memory card and needs to be collected and that is where AI traps come into play.
Dutch tech company Hack the Planet has recently developed an AI camera trap that can send real-time updates and identify which species it has detected. Usually, rangers would only find out if poachers have been area weeks after they'd been spotted which is already too late to prevent the unlawful killing of animals.
• Check out the best trail cameras for wildlife photography and nature watching
The modified camera trap is fitted with a mini-computer which enables it to download and analyze images and then identify whether a lion, elephant, or a human has been detected. A satellite communicator (opens in new tab) inside the camera can send this information directly to the ranger's phone, alerting them of any illegal activity within minutes.
Tim van Deursen, the founder of Hack the Planet (opens in new tab) explains how important these styles of camera traps are for protecting wildlife and catching poachers. “You never know where someone is because these parks are immense, it would be like finding a needle in a haystack. What we hope with this technology can actually point to where something is happening.
Hack the Planet has also developed a cell phone sensor that is able to detect cell phones in the area. Most people, including poachers, will carry a mobile phone on them pretty much all the time so being able to detect mobile phones in the park will give rangers another way of monitoring suspicious activity.
It’s refreshing to see such a positive use of AI - no creatives are being copied or losing out on pay - and this new technology could help drastically reduce poaching.
According to the World Animal Foundation, between 2018 and 2021, 2707 rhinos, including critically endangered black rhinos, died due to poaching. While poaching rates have dropped in recent years, there’s still a long way to go to eradicate it entirely but these camera traps are a step in the right direction.
See also best cellular trail cameras (opens in new tab) and the best outdoor security cameras (opens in new tab)