The illegal wildlife trade has become a significant global issue, with an estimated worth of over $23 billion annually. Not only does poaching contribute to this alarming figure, but it also poses a serious threat to the lives of dedicated wildlife conservation workers and park rangers who risk their lives on the frontlines every day. In fact, since 2003, more than 1,000 wildlife rangers have been killed in the line of duty.
To help combat the ever-growing dangers of poaching, professionals in the field are turning to innovative solutions. Among these advancements, artificial intelligence (AI) is emerging as a crucial tool in bolstering the efforts of rangers and park managers in their ongoing fight against illicit activities within the protected areas.
- Poaching is a major global issue threatening both wildlife and conservation workers.
- Artificial intelligence is increasingly being utilized to combat this problem.
- AI-backed solutions show promise in enhancing safety and effectiveness in wildlife conservation.
AI Smart Technology for Protecting Wildlife
1. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles
Unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, have shown potential as surveillance tools in the fight against poaching. By integrating drones with AI, conservationists can effectively battle poaching at night as well. The Air Shepard uses image processing and remote cameras with heat-sensitive infrared technology to identify poachers through the dark, enabling park rangers to act swiftly.
2. Concealed Cameras
Hidden cameras equipped with AI for automatic poacher detection are also employed as part of conservation efforts. Small, discreet cameras like the TrailGuard in Tanzania’s Grumeti Game Reserve offer round-the-clock surveillance. Upon detecting potential poachers, these cameras transmit the captured images in real-time to park rangers, allowing for a prompt response.
3. Gunfire Detection Systems
A gunfire detection system initially developed for law enforcement, ShotSpotter, has been adapted to combat poaching. Kruger National Park in South Africa uses ShotSpotter to alert park rangers to potential poacher activity. Installed throughout the Intensified Protection Zone (IPZ) since 2018, the technology has been successful in reducing rhino killings by 60% in the covered IPZ region.
4. Sound Monitoring Devices
Sound monitoring devices help detect noises made by gunshots, explosions, chain saws, and truck engines, all of which may indicate the presence of poachers. The Elephant Listening Project by Cornell University utilizes AI to analyze audio data collected from tracking African forest elephants. While still under development, this technology can potentially improve response times by recognizing poacher-related sounds.
5. Protection Assistant for Wildlife Safety (PAWS)
PAWS offers advanced AI defense against poaching by obfuscating patrol schedules. It suggests optimal patrol routes for park rangers and randomizes their routines, making it challenging for poachers to predict their movements. PAWS collaborates with the open-source Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART) system, allowing parks to collect and manage patrol data. Using historical data, PAWS recommends patrol routes based on security games, effectively enhancing conservation and animal protection efforts.
How AI Continues to Transform Wildlife Conservation
As you continue your journey in wildlife conservation, AI technology will progress, providing innovative tools to protect endangered species and habitats. By harnessing the power of AI, your efforts as a conservationist, along with organizations like WWF, will lead to more efficient resource allocation and stronger strategies in safeguarding biodiversity, both in protected and agricultural areas. The future of wildlife conservation lies in leveraging AI advancements, steadily achieving the goal of ending poaching altogether.