Indian rangers are using the power of artificial intelligence to protect the country’s vulnerable tigers from poachers and other perils.
Most of the country’s tigers – whose total number is estimated at around 2,967 – live in one of 51 tiger reserves which cover a vast area stretching 45,900 miles.
Quantifying the beautiful creatures isn’t always easy and neither is protecting them, with deaths from poaching, seizures, accidents or conflict with humans totaling around 300 over the past four years.
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Most of India’s tigers – numbering around 2,967 in total – live in one of 51 tiger reserves which cover a vast area spanning 45,900 miles. AI helps rangers 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 local people. Above is a graph showing the causes of tiger mortality from 2012 to 2020
India’s National Tiger Conservation Authority has deployed camera traps in 26,838 locations to take more than 34 million images of wildlife. Researchers also walked several hundred thousand miles on foot to look for signs of tigers or their prey.
A new artificial intelligence system being developed will give rangers the best routes to patrol the extremely large areas under their watch – by analyzing data on the tiger population, its movements and local topography, reports BBC News.
“Artificial intelligence will help rangers detect wildlife crimes,” Mohmad Sajid Sultan, deputy inspector general at the NTCA, told the British media.
The AVI Foundation has developed an AI that can use data collected by cameras and rangers, in combination with satellite data and information from local people.
India’s National Tiger Conservation Authority has deployed camera traps in 26,838 locations to take more than 34 million images of wildlife. Artificial intelligence can sift through data much faster than any human
India has made it a priority to increase its wild tiger population by 35% to 4,000 over the next decade. The image above is an image of a resort in Pench National Park
Jerryl Banait, chairman of the AVI Foundation, told BBC News he hopes India’s forest departments will use this more sophisticated hybrid technology to better protect wildlife, especially animals that are found outside national parks. and wildlife reserves in the future.
He also pointed out that poachers have also become smarter – mapping ranger routes, avoiding standard trails and even knowing where cameras are.
“With the limited territories available to wild animals, it is of paramount importance that there is no human interference in the already reduced wildlife habitats,” he said.
The technology is useful in combination with rangers in the field.
“Unless we are able to expand our network of protected areas and wildlife corridors, the tiger population is unlikely to increase,” said conservationist Debi Goenka.
Goenka also said that more, better equipped human patrols were needed.
“What is really needed is more ground 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 scaled up,” he said.
India has set a priority to increase its wild tiger population by 35% to 4,000 over the next decade – which officials say would protect forest biodiversity and also boost economic gains, reports Bloomberg.
“Tiger reserves provide social, environmental and economic benefits,” SP Yadav, additional chief executive of Project Tiger, a government program for the conservation of the species, told Bloomberg. “The economic benefits will increase in the future.”
However, all this tiger population growth can also bring more peril, in the form of contact with humans.
“Cattle predation and attacks on humans have led to a negative perception of tigers,” Sunil Limaye, the chief conservator of forests at Tadaoba National Park in Maharashtra, told BBC News.
The number of tigers in his state has increased from 312 to 400 over the past four years.
Jerryl Banait, chairman of the AVI Foundation, told BBC News he hopes India’s forest departments will use this more sophisticated hybrid technology to better protect wildlife.
The growing tiger population may bring more perils, in the form of contact with humans. The image above shows the deployment of camera traps in the Kanha Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh, India.
Animals are also at risk as they move from one forest area to another, and experts hope AI can help by monitoring their movements in these harder-to-reach areas.
“It is still not possible for AI to replace human intelligence,” added Limaye.
At Pench National Park, veterinarian Akhilesh Mishra hopes conservation work can prevent tragedies like the death of a well-known tiger – tigress Baghin nala, a 12-year-old animal found dead in March 2016 in the tiger reserve de Pench after being poisoned with two of his young.
Mishra managed to save a third cub, who has thrived in the reserve and now has cubs of her own: “It was a joyful sight when we raised her in captivity, developing her hunting skills to survive the harsh forest.”