Tiny AI cameras are helping rural villages in India and Nepal defend themselves against one of the world's most protected predators – tigers. As tiger populations increase thanks to successful conservation efforts, these apex predators are venturing closer and closer to villages to find food. Understandably villagers are concerned they might end up as a tiger's next meal and, in turn, conservationists are worried that people will revert to poaching – but, luckily, AI is here to land a hand.
Last month research was published in the BioScience journal by Clemson University in South Carolina and several non-governmental organizations showing how AI cameras can revolutionize tiger conservation. TrailGuard cameras (which are able to distinguish between tigers and other animals, like elephants) were set up close to villages in both India and Nepal, and were able to alert rangers to the big cats' proximity within seconds.
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This isn’t the first time that AI has been used in animal surveillance conservation, although it is perhaps the first time it has been used to protect people. Earlier this year, Dutch tech company Hack the Planet introduced an AI-powered camera to detect the activity of poachers. These modified trail cams were fitted with a mini-computer to analyze whether they had spotted a lion, an elephant, or even a human – and then, using a satellite communicator, updates were sent to the rangers' mobile.
Results from the study show that the AI cameras were almost instantly successful in detecting and alerting rangers to both nearby tigers and poachers. "We have to find ways for people and tigers and other wildlife to coexist," Eric Dinerstein, one of the authors of the report, told Agence France-Presse. "Technology can offer us a tremendous opportunity to achieve that goal very cheaply."
Conservationists hope that by 2030, 30% of the Earth's land and oceans will be protected with help from technology such as AI cameras. Resolve, the company behind TrailGuard cameras, is currently developing, implementing and scaling TrailGuard AI technology to make it cheaper and more accessible, so that more animals (and people) can benefit from it.