- The African forest elephant and African savannah elephant have been classified as ‘endangered’ and ‘critically endangered’ by the IUCN.
- A new AI-powered camera is being tested in Gabon with the hope that it will aid elephant conversation. The device connects directly to satellites and sends real-time information to forest rangers or local villagers.
- The technology can also detect other animal species, as well as humans, and can therefore monitor conflicts between people and wildlife as well as illegal activities in protected areas.
“Africa’s elephants play key roles in ecosystems, economies and in our collective imagination all over the world.”
Dr Bruno Oberle, Director-General of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), stressed the global importance of one of Africa’s most iconic creatures back in March 2021. The IUCN also confirmed that the animals had been placed on its red list of threatened species.
Following population declines due to loss of habitat and ivory poaching, the African forest elephant was classified as ‘critically endangered’ by the IUCN. The African savannah elephant became ‘endangered’.
The IUCN says the population of both species had dropped to 415,000 and that the number of African forest elephants decreased by an alarming 86% over the previous three decades.
“We must urgently put an end to poaching and ensure that sufficient suitable habitat for both forest and savanna elephants is conserved,” Oberle added.
African elephant populations have decreased by 98% since 1500. Image: Our World In Data.
Using AI tech to protect Africa’s forest elephants
In collaboration with Dutch tech start-up Hack the Planet, a team of British scientists at Stirling University has developed a new camera that could help protect elephants and other wildlife. The AI-powered device connects directly to satellites and sends real-time information to forest rangers or local villagers. Traditional instruments in this space are often hampered in remote locations by poor internet availability or having to collect recordings physically.
« Real-time data from smart cameras and other sensors could revolutionize how we monitor and protect the world’s most threatened ecosystems, » says Dr Robin Whytock, a post-doctoral researcher at Stirling University » “The advances made in this study show that real-time data could be used to make better decisions during time-critical situation ».”
During the pilot in Gabon, the researchers say, “camera systems took more than 800 photos in 72 days. 217 photos of elephants were taken. The AI model achieved an accuracy of 82% in recognizing elephants. Rangers received an alert from the system within seven minutes on average.”
The project team says the technology can detect other animal species, as well as humans. It can therefore monitor conflicts between people and wildlife as well as illegal activities in protected areas. It can even deter elephants from entering villages, the researchers say.
Source : https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2023/03/africa-endangered-forest-elephants-ai/