AI: Latest Weapon in the Battle Against Wildlife Poaching

February 26, 2019

The use of artificial intelligence (AI) has potential to bring about real triumphs in wildlife conservation and protection across Africa in an otherwise devastating tale of species loss and extinction.

Along with other human activities such as habitat destruction and environmental pollution, wildlife poaching is leading to the loss and extinction of species on an unprecedented scale. According to a report released by WWF last year, anthropogenic wildlife devastation has resulted in a 60% decline in animal populations since 1970.

Why is it important to combat wildlife poaching?

If illegal wildlife poaching continues at its current rate, many species will be completely erased in our lifetime. Furthermore, poaching does not only destroy species, it also severely impacts the ecosystems and economies in Africa and globally. Wiping out just one species has detrimental effects on biodiversity, the preservation of a healthy earth and the ability to successfully sustain ourselves.

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A range of innovative tracking methods for endangered species have been explored in the fight against poaching and species extinction. The use of artificial intelligence presents a new way for governments and conservation organisations to confront wildlife poaching using this different method. By using this important technology to get ahead of the poachers, more preventative measures can be taken to mitigate and resolve the challenge of poaching.

How does AI help prevent wildlife poaching incidents?

AI is set to be a game-changer for anti-poaching task teams and park rangers in monitoring, managing and protecting endangered and vulnerable species in Africa, which includes the rhino, elephant, lion, leopard and cheetah.

Within the area of concern, relevant data is collected on previous poaching activities that have taken place, the strategies of poachers and their poaching routes. This collected data is then used to train the AI system to enable it to provide proactive suggestions on where the next poaching incident is likely to occur.

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By plugging in data collected previously on poaching activity, the local areas and patrols, the AI system uses an algorithm to generate new, more targeted patrol routes. The patrol task team on the ground is better supported and enabled to design and implement an effective patrolling strategy to improve wildlife protection and anti-poaching efforts.

Moreover, by training the AI system with relevant data on an animal’s movement, footprints and actions, the team can obtain insights on where the endangered animals are located. This further enables the team’s ability to protect wildlife species targeted by poachers.

What is the latest technology being used?

In a new partnership between Resolve, National Geographic Society and the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, AI cameras have been created using Intel’s neural network algorithms to combat wildlife poaching, with the technology still to be rolled out within the coming months.

This AI system provides information that supports park rangers to more accurately identify poachers rather than other motion in front of the camera. The system will alert park rangers if a person or vehicle is detected – rather than moving bushes or other wildlife – so that the rangers can confront the poachers before animals are injured or killed.

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Researchers at the University of Southern California has been testing a new technology called PAWS (Protection Assistant for Wildlife Security) that uses AI and machine learning to assess data and predict poaching activity. The main aspect in PAWS’ model is game theory, which is based on similar techniques used to create and run games like online poker.

By designing a ‘ranger vs poacher’ game anti-poaching task teams gain a better understanding of strategies and logic poachers may use through this AI simulation. This system was piloted by the Uganda Wildlife Authority in the Queen Elizabeth National Park, which has opted to continue the implementation of this system due to its notable successes.

Chat to us about planning an African wildlife safari or gorilla trekking safari  to connect with and appreciate Africa’s important natural beauty. 


Posted by tfhadmin


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