This AI-powered camera could protect wildlife and deter poachers

AI-enabled camera trap in Lopé National Park Gabon
Tim van Deursen from Hack The Planet installing an AI-enabled camera trap in Lopé National Park Gabon (Image credit: Floris Tils)

An AI-powered wildlife camera capable of detecting animal-human conflicts in real-time has been developed by the University of Stirling, Scotland, and Dutch tech start-up, Hack the Planet. It’s the first time that AI has been used to help monitor the relationship between two different species and it’s hoped that it could help detect illegal activity. 

Trail cameras are regularly used in conservation to monitor wildlife. They help wildlife experts understand animal behaviors, relationships and routines, and sometimes they capture extremely exciting footage. Just recently a trail camera placed on Mount Kilkerran, on Fergusson Island off the coast of Papua New Guinea, recorded a rare bird that hadn’t been sighted since 1882. 

• These are the best cellular trail cameras – camera traps that send images directly to your phones

One of the downsides to regular trail cameras is that they often rely on WiFi, radio or cellular coverage that isn’t available in remote areas. This AI-powered camera won’t rely on such tech, and instead will be able to send instant updates when activity occurs. 

The study is called 'Real-time alerts from AI-enabled camera traps using the Iridium satellite network: a case study in Gabon, Central Africa', published in Methods in Ecology and Evolution. Initial research shows that these cameras could be used to detect and identify poachers. 

So far the camera has undergone rigorous testing under rainforest conditions in Gabon; over the course of 72 days, more than 800 photos were taken by 5 camera systems – 217 of those photos were of elephants, and the AI model recorded an 82% accuracy in recognizing them. 

"With this pilot we have demonstrated that our AI-powered camera technology works and can have a positive impact on nature conservation," said Tim van Deursen, founder of Hack the Planet. "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."

AI technology really exploded in 2022 and, while it has received a lot of criticism, there are incredibly powerful, important uses of this new technology. If it can be used to help monitor ecosystems, protect wildlife and ensure the future of habitats, then it’s a technology that definitely should be developed further. 

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Hannah Rooke
Staff Writer

Having studied Journalism and Public Relations at the University of the West of England Hannah developed a love for photography through a module on photojournalism. She specializes in Portrait, Fashion and lifestyle photography but has more recently branched out in the world of stylized product photography. For the last 3 years Hannah has worked at Wex Photo Video as a Senior Sales Assistant using her experience and knowledge of cameras to help people buy the equipment that is right for them. With 5 years experience working with studio lighting, Hannah has run many successful workshops teaching people how to use different lighting setups.