Poaching of wild and endangered animals is rampant in Africa and Asia. So much so that, according to National Geographic, an elephant is killed every 15 minutes by a poacher, at a rate of approximately 35,000 elephants per year. In a decade, experts predict there won’t be any more elephants. Rhinos, gorillas, tigers and other large mammals are also in danger from poachers, as are giraffes, antelopes and wildebeest that are often caught in poachers’ snares.
In order to stop or somewhat curb the magnitude of poaching, Resolve, an NGO and Intel had joined hands to develop methods that can help park rangers identify and stop poachers before entering into the forest for such reasons.
Resolve has developed an AI integrated camera, Trail Guard AI, with the help of Intel that can track the poachers and notify the park rangers and concerned forest officials, almost at real time to take desired actions.
Besides Intel, TrailGuard AI is backed by partners like the National Geographic Society and the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation. Support for R&D and deployment has come from generous contributions by the Stadler Family Foundation, WildCat Foundation, Weeden Family Foundation, Band Foundation, Marshall Field, Kowalski Family Foundation, the Arcus Foundation, and Lori Price, among others.
“By pairing AI technology with human decision-makers, we can solve some of our greatest challenges, including illegal poaching of endangered animals. With TrailGuard AI, Intel’s Movidius technology enables the camera to capture suspected poacher images and alerts park rangers, who will ultimately decide the most appropriate response,” says Anna Bethke, head of AI for Social Good at Intel Corporation
How TrailGuard AI Camera Works
TrailGuard AI is the first wildlife-oriented security camera system designed for the rigors of the bush that combines: easy concealment due to its small size (i.e. the length of one’s index finger), human detection algorithms performed on the Intel computer vision processing unit housed in the camera head, long battery life, and near-real time connectivity to alert rangers at park HQs to be able to make timely interventions.
TrailGuard’s camera head is small enough to conceal along trails to capture photographic evidence, uses artificial intelligence to detect humans within the images, and relays pictures containing humans back to park headquarters via GSM, long-range radio, or satellite networks.
TrailGuard AI uses Intel Movidius Vision Processing Units (VPUs) for image processing, running deep neural network algorithms for object detection and image classification inside the camera. If humans are detected among any of the motion-activated images captured by the camera, it triggers electronic alerts to park personnel so they can mobilize rangers before poachers can do harm.
One of the unique features of the camera is it does not give any false alerts. Instead of alerting the rangers anytime there is motion in front of the camera, including from shifting cloud cover, birds and animals, TrailGuard AI only sends images to the rangers when a person or vehicle is detected. Fewer false-positives means rangers have more time to focus on their work, instead of spending their time looking through hundreds of false alerts each day.
Where It Has Been Deployed
The TrailGuard AI will be deployed in 100 reserves in Africa throughout 2019, starting with Serengeti and Garamba, with plans to expand to Southeast Asia and South America. The TrailGuard technology was field tested at the Grumeti Reserve in Tanzania, where it has enabled 30 arrests and the seizure of over 1300 lbs. of animal meat.