Picture a conservation biologist in the savannah, you’d be forgiven for imagining a scientist in camouflage fatigues with a pair of binoculars in one hand and a notebook in the other, but this image, which so readily comes to mind, may soon be consigned to a bygone era. Notably in South Africa, where specialists like Nicholas Osner are leveraging artificial intelligence to usher in new approaches to the task of conservation. The machine-learning engineer explains: “We have developed a web application called TrapTagger, which uses an open-source algorithm to automatically process images from camera traps”, devices that can easily be attached to trees to capture pictures of wildlife. TrapTagger is just one of the projects pioneered by WildEye Conservation, a non-profit that develops AI-based tools to facilitate the conservation of species. The system can also detect the presence of humans and vehicles, but the crucial advantage of this innovation is its ability to analyse images and recognise the species that appear in them.
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