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AI Cameras: Conservationists’ New Tool in the Fight Against Poachers


A new artificial intelligence-equipped camera plans to help conservationists and rangers around the world in the short-handed fight against poaching. The TrailGuard AI cameras aim to assist crews working on the ground who often suffer from a lack of the manpower needed to cover the vast range of the animals they protect.


The new tool utilizes facial and object recognition technology to locate potential poachers while surveying the terrain. After identifying suspicious people or vehicles, the camera then sends a signal to alert nearby rangers of a potential poaching threat. Poachers often sneak onto a reservation unnoticed, leaving the animals exposed and vulnerable. This early alert system hopes to provide conservationist and rangers with enough time to intercept the threat before they can reach their target.


Team Behind the TrailGuard Camera


TrailGuard AI was developed in collaboration with multiple agencies and organizations dedicated to protecting and defending animals. The non-profit sustainability organization Resolve supported the project in conjunction with Intel, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, and the National Geographic Society.


Intel’s Movidius Myriad 2 computer vision processor and a neural network-based AI form the backbone of the technology. Through the network, a machine learning algorithm quickly analyzes motion-triggered footage and identifies potential threats. About the size of a pencil, the camera is an ideal tool for secretly recording poachers.


Improvements on Previous AI-Camera Models


This new tool builds on the work of its previous iterations. Wheres older versions transmitted images in bulk and occasionally mistook branches and wildlife for poachers, the new version is selective about the images it submits, sending only those that likely contain a poacher. Through exposure to thousands of images at multiple angles, the rate of false positives is believed to have substantially decreased which will hopefully help rangers address threats as they come in while retaining faith in the accuracy of the system.


According to the Intel case study, TrailGuards primary function, “is to scan the massive number of images captured in real time, discarding the vast majority that have no content of interest and identifying those with humans in the frame.” By eliminating excess images, the camera gives rangers more time to intercept poachers and hopefully “capture poachers before the killing starts.”


Additionally, the battery life and cost of this newest model outdo its predecessor. Since it is more selective in the images it submits and boasts a more streamlined design, the battery lasts much longer than before. According to Intel, these cameras can last up to 1.5 years in the wild on a single battery charge.


The team behind TrailGuard hopes to install the cameras on 100 reserves by the end of 2019, potentially saving an estimated 25,000 animals a year.


Helping Conservation Teams on the Ground


Providing the needed tools to conservationists and rangers working on the ground is essential to fighting the poaching crisis. At Stop Poaching Now, we work every day with organizations in Africa and Asia to protect the world’s most vulnerable animals. Join us in the fight to end poaching and make your voice heard today!


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