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Indian conservation rangers use artificial intelligence to protect 'vulnerable' tigers from poachers

Conservationists in India are using the power of artificial intelligence to protect the country’s vulnerable tigers from poachers and other dangers.

Most of the country’s tigers — an estimated 2,967 in all — live in one of 51 tiger sanctuaries that cover a large area stretching 45,900 miles.

Quantifying the beautiful creatures is not always easy and the same can be said for its protection, with a total of about 300 deaths due to poaching, seizures, accidents or conflicts with humans in the last four years.

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Most of India's tigers - believed to be 2,967 in total - live in one of 51 tiger reserves that cover a large area stretching 45,900 miles.  AI helps conservationists track the animals' movements

Most of India’s tigers – believed to be 2,967 in total – live in one of 51 tiger reserves that cover a large area stretching 45,900 miles. AI helps conservationists track the animals’ movements

The AVI Foundation has developed an AI that can use data from cameras and rangers in combination with satellite data and information from the local population.  Shown above is an image showing the causes of tiger deaths from 2012 to 2020

The AVI Foundation has developed an AI that can use data from cameras and rangers in combination with satellite data and information from the local population.  Shown above is an image showing the causes of tiger deaths from 2012 to 2020

The AVI Foundation has developed an AI that can use data from cameras and rangers in combination with satellite data and information from the local population. Shown above is an image showing the causes of tiger deaths from 2012 to 2020

India’s National Tiger Conservation Authority has deployed camera traps at 26,838 sites to capture more than 34 million pictures of wildlife. Researchers also walked several hundred thousand miles to look for signs of tigers or their prey.

A new artificial intelligence system under development will give forest rangers the best routes to patrol the extremely vast areas under their control — analyzing data on the tiger population, how it moves and local topography, reports BBC news.

“Artificial intelligence will help forest rangers detect wildlife crime,” Mohmad Sajid Sultan, Assistant Inspector General at the NTCA, told Britain’s news channel.

The AVI Foundation has developed an AI that can use data from cameras and rangers in combination with satellite data and information from the local population.

India's National Tiger Conservation Authority has deployed camera traps at 26,838 sites to capture more than 34 million pictures of wildlife.  Artificial intelligence can search the data much faster than any human

India's National Tiger Conservation Authority has deployed camera traps at 26,838 sites to capture more than 34 million pictures of wildlife.  Artificial intelligence can search the data much faster than any human

India’s National Tiger Conservation Authority has deployed camera traps at 26,838 sites to capture more than 34 million pictures of wildlife. Artificial intelligence can search the data much faster than any human

India has made it a priority to grow its wild tiger population by 35 percent to a staggering 4,000 over the next ten years.  Pictured above is an image of a resort in Pench National Park

India has made it a priority to grow its wild tiger population by 35 percent to a staggering 4,000 over the next ten years.  Pictured above is an image of a resort in Pench National Park

India has made it a priority to grow its wild tiger population by 35 percent to a staggering 4,000 over the next ten years. Pictured above is an image of a resort in Pench National Park

Jerryl Banait, chairman of AVI Foundation, told BBC News that he hopes forest departments across India will use this more advanced hybrid technology to better protect wildlife, especially those outside of national parks and nature reserves in the future.

He also pointed out that poachers have also gotten smarter — mapping rangers’ routes, avoiding standard trails, and even knowing where the cameras are.

“With the limited territories available to the wildlife, it is paramount that there is no human intervention in the already shrunken wildlife habitats,” he said.

The technology can be used in combination with rangers on the ground.

“Unless we can expand our network of protected areas and our wildlife corridors, the tiger population is unlikely to increase,” said environmentalist Debi Goenka.

Goenka also said more human patrols are needed that are better equipped.

“What is really needed is more field patrols and better use of technology for monitoring and protection. The use of drones, camera traps, real-time tracking of poachers and the use of metal detectors to locate snares and traps should be increased and intensified,” he said.

India has made it a priority to grow its wild tiger population by 35 percent to a staggering 4,000 over the next decade — something officials say would protect forest biodiversity and also boost economic gains, Bloomberg reports.

“Tiger reserves bring benefits to society, the environment and the economy,” SP Yadav, additional director general of Project Tiger, a government-run program for the conservation of the species, told IPS. Bloomberg. “The economic benefits will increase in the future.”

However, all that population growth for tigers can also bring more danger, in the form of contact with people.

“Cattle predation and attacks on humans have led to a negative perception of tigers,” Sunil Limaye, chief forest manager of Maharashtra’s Tadaoba National Park, told BBC News.

The number of tigers in his state has risen from 312 to 400 in the past four years.

Jerryl Banait, chairman of AVI Foundation, told BBC News he hopes forest departments across India will use this more advanced hybrid technology to better protect wildlife

Jerryl Banait, chairman of AVI Foundation, told BBC News he hopes forest departments across India will use this more advanced hybrid technology to better protect wildlife

Jerryl Banait, chairman of AVI Foundation, told BBC News he hopes forest departments across India will use this more advanced hybrid technology to better protect wildlife

The growth of the tiger population can bring more danger, in the form of contact with humans.  The image above shows the deployment of camera traps in the Kanha Tiger Reserve of Madhya Pradesh, India

The growth of the tiger population can bring more danger, in the form of contact with humans.  The image above shows the deployment of camera traps in the Kanha Tiger Reserve of Madhya Pradesh, India

The growth of the tiger population can bring more danger, in the form of contact with humans. The image above shows the deployment of camera traps in the Kanha Tiger Reserve of Madhya Pradesh, India

The animals are also threatened as they move from one forest area to another, and experts hope AI can help by tracking their movements in these more difficult-to-reach areas.

“It is still not possible for AI to replace human intelligence,” Limaye added.

In Pench National Park, veterinarian Akhilesh Mishra hopes conservation can prevent tragedies such as the death of a well-known tiger: Baghin nala tigress, a 12-year-old animal found dead in the Pench Tiger Reserve in March 2016 after being poisoned along with two of her cubs.

Mishra managed to rescue a third cub, who has done well in the reserve and now has cubs of her own: “It was a joyful sight as we raised her in captivity and developed her hunting skills to survive in the rugged forest.”

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