Conservationists in India are harnessing the power of artificial intelligence to protect the country’s endangered tigers from poachers and other dangers.
Most of the country’s tigers – it’s believed there are about 2,967 in all – live in one of 51 tiger reserves that cover a vast area of 45,900 miles.
It’s not always easy to quantify the beautiful creatures, and the same goes for protecting them. In the last four years, a total of about 300 have died from poaching, confiscation, accidents or conflicts with humans.
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Most of the Indian tigers – it is believed there are around 2,967 in all – live in one of 51 tiger reserves, spread over a vast area of 45,900 miles. AI helps conservationists track animal movements
The AVI Foundation has developed an AI that can use data collected by cameras and rangers in combination with satellite data and information from the local population. Pictured above is a graph showing the causes of tiger deaths from 2012 to 2020
India’s National Tiger Conservation Authority has set up camera traps in 26,838 locations to capture more than 34 million images of wildlife. Researchers also walked hundreds of thousands of kilometers to look for signs of tigers or their prey.
A new artificial intelligence system under development will show rangers the best patrol routes in the extremely wide areas under their watch – by analyzing data on the tiger population, their movement and local topography, reports BBC News.
“Artificial intelligence will help rangers detect wildlife crimes,” NTCA deputy inspector general Mohmad Sajid Sultan told the British news agency.
The AVI Foundation has developed an AI that can use data collected by cameras and rangers in combination with satellite data and information from the local population.
India’s National Tiger Conservation Authority has set up camera traps in 26,838 locations to capture more than 34 million images of wildlife. Artificial intelligence can view the data much faster than any human
India has made it a priority to increase its wild tiger population by 35 percent to as many as 4,000 over the next decade. Pictured above is a picture of a resort in Pench National Park
Jerryl Banait, chairman of the AVI Foundation, told BBC News he hopes forest authorities across India will use this more sophisticated hybrid technology to better protect wildlife, particularly animals found outside of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries in the future.
He also pointed out that poachers have also gotten smarter – they can map rangers’ routes, avoid standard paths and even know where the cameras are.
“Given the limited areas available to wildlife, it is of paramount importance that there is no human encroachment on the already shrunken wildlife habitats,” he explained.
The technology makes sense in combination with rangers on site.
“Unless we are able to expand our network of protected areas and wildlife corridors, the tiger population is unlikely to increase,” said environmentalist Debi Goenka.
Goenka also said that more human patrols, better equipped, were needed.
“What we really need is more field patrols and better use of technology for surveillance and protection. The use of drones, camera traps, real-time tracking of poachers, and the use of metal detectors to locate snares and traps must be increased and intensified,” he said.
India has made it a priority to increase its wild tiger population by 35 percent to as many as 4,000 over the next decade — something officials said would protect forest biodiversity and also increase economic gains, Bloomberg reports .
“Tiger reserves bring social, environmental and economic benefits,” SP Yadav, associate director-general of Project Tiger, a government-led program to protect the species, told Bloomberg. “The economic benefits will increase in the future.”
However, all this population growth for tigers can also bring more dangers in the form of human contact.
“Predation of livestock and attacks on humans have created a negative perception of tigers,” Sunil Limaye, chief forest ranger of Maharashtra’s Tadaoba National Park, told BBC News.
The number of tigers in his state has increased from 312 to 400 in the past four years.
Jerryl Banait, chairman of the AVI Foundation, told BBC News he hoped forest departments across India would use this more sophisticated hybrid technology to better protect wildlife
The growth in the tiger population may bring more dangers in the form of human contact. The image above shows the use of a camera trap in the Kanha Tiger Reserve of Madhya Pradesh, India
The animals are also threatened when moving from one forested area to another, and experts hope AI can help by monitoring their movements in these hard-to-reach areas.
“It’s still not possible for AI to replace human intelligence,” Limaye added.
Pench National Park veterinarian Akhilesh Mishra hopes the conservation work can prevent tragedies such as the death of a well-known tiger – the Baghin Nala tiger, a 12-year-old animal found dead in Pench Tiger Reserve in March 2016 along with two poisoned her young.
Mishra managed to rescue a third cub, which has thrived on the reserve and is now having offspring of its own: “It was a sight of joy as we raised them in captivity and developed their hunting skills to survive in the harsh forest.”