It is the first time that such an innovative camera system has been rigorously tested under the tough conditions of a rainforest. By combining an AI model, ready-made camera traps and custom hardware with a satellite connection, it is now possible to send real-time information to rangers from remote locations. The research shows that reliable analyses can be made with a view to nature conservation and ecology.
Dr Robin Whytock, Post-doctoral Researcher at the University of Stirling during the study: "Real-time data from smart cameras and other sensors could revolutionise how we monitor and protect the world's most threatened ecosystems. The advances made in this study show that real-time data could be used to make better decisions during time-critical situations."
Tim van Deursen, founder of Hack The Planet: “With this pilot we have demonstrated that our AI-powered camera technology works and can have a positive impact on nature conservation. 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.”
Lee White, Gabonese minister of Water, Forests, the Sea and Environment: “Fewer of our eco-guards will die, and more poachers will be caught, if we can deploy this technology.”
During the pilot in the Gabonese rainforest, five 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 recognising elephants. Rangers received an alert from the system within seven minutes on average.
The work on the AI-enabled camera traps involved collaborators National Parks Agency of Gabon and Q42, who funded the project, and is supported by an international team of researchers and conservationists from Ministry of Water and Forests, Agence Nationale des Parcs Nationaux, Appsillon AI for Good, University of Oregon, University of KwaZulu-Natal, University of Oxford, Utrecht University, Yale University and Institut de Recherche en Ecologie Tropicale.
The study can be read on The British Ecological Society website.