US Tech Firm Intel Using Artificial Intelligence To Combat Poaching In Africa

Written by Peter Pedroncelli

U.S. tech firm Intel is joining the fight against poaching in Africa through artificial intelligence-enabled cameras that detect poachers before they can kill animals.

Intel’s software will be used in TrailGuard AI cameras distributed throughout wildlife reserves and national parks, alerting park rangers when poachers are detected so that they can intervene, according to an Intel press release.

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The technology has been developed in partnership with the National Geographic Society and the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, with cameras set to be distributed throughout wildlife reserves by nonprofit organization Resolve.

Tiny cameras (the size of a pencil) can easily be concealed to fool potential poachers. They’ll be deployed in African wildlife reserves in early 2019, according to Techcentral.

The cameras will be placed on access trails used by poachers, alerting park rangers who can follow up on suspicious activity and capture poachers before they can do harm.

Along with parks in Africa, the technology will be used to protect animals from the threat of poaching throughout Southeast Asia.

poaching in Africa
Intel’s software will be used to combat poaching in Africa. Image – AP – Denis Farrell

Poaching is a serious threat to animal species such as elephants and rhino, particularly in Africa, where poachers kill the animals for their horns, which are believed to have medicinal value and fetch a high price in Asian countries such as China and Vietnam.

Across Africa and South East Asia, an elephant is killed every 15 minutes by a poacher, at a rate of approximately 35,000 elephants per year, according to Resolve.

In South Africa alone, the first eight months of 2018 saw 508 rhino poached, according to AfricaGeographic.

While this was less than the 688 rhinos that were killed during the same period in 2017, new technology can assist the authorities and those on the ground to continue turning the tide and eliminating the poaching industry.

Tech to help rangers combat poaching in Africa

The task facing park rangers is overwhelming, with small numbers of rangers expected to put their lives on the line and safeguard large conservation areas against poachers.

The Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, for example, employs 150 rangers to protect an area of land the size of Belgium, according to TheVerge.

This artificial technology has the potential to become an important weapon and equalizer in fighting poaching,

The small devices contain a long-life battery which can last up to a year-and-a-half without needing to be charged.

This is a great improvement on a previous bulky version that had poor battery life and would send false positive alerts that originated from something as simple as leaves rustling in the wind.

The Intel software in the new cameras uses neural network algorithms to accurately identify poachers, animals and vehicles rather than other motion in front of the camera, according to the press release.

Resolve uses Intel’s Movidius Myriad 2 vision processing unit. This sophisticated artificial intelligence technology was previously used to power Google’s automatic Clips camera.