Face Recognition Safeguards Koalas with AI Environment at Kerb

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Australian researchers leverage cutting-edge AI technology to monitor and protect koalas, employing facial recognition to prevent vehicular fatalities. This groundbreaking project not only preserves the endangered marsupials but also exemplifies the potential of AI environment conservation.

  • The researchers hope AI will be able to differentiate between individual koalas using road crossings, based on their faces and their movements.
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) researchers in Australia are experimenting with facial recognition technology to monitor koalas as part of conservation efforts.
  • The team from Griffith University in the northeast state of Queensland will attempt to recognize the marsupials with AI Environment facial recognition at wildlife crossings, designed to offer the animals a safe route either over or under public roads.

In a remarkable feat, scientists from Griffith University, Queensland, Australia, are leading the charge in utilizing AI technology and facial recognition to monitor koalas and enhance their protection. The primary focus lies in deploying AI in koala crossings, purpose-built passages that offer safe routes for these iconic marsupials to navigate across public roads, minimizing the risk of accidents.

AI Environment

Associate Professor Jun Zhou, the driving force behind this ambitious endeavour, seeks to revolutionize koala monitoring and conservation efforts. By harnessing the power of AI, the researchers aim to gain invaluable insights into koala behaviour and evaluate the efficacy of existing wildlife crossings in preserving these beloved creatures.

“This groundbreaking project aims to establish an AI-based monitoring system, enabling us to analyse koalas’ road crossing patterns and ascertain the usage of underground pathways or above-road crossings,” highlighted Zhou, emphasizing the project’s significance.

The Queensland government has generously granted AUD $90,000 ($70,000, €57,000) to fund this two-year pilot study, exemplifying the potential of AI technology in environmental conservation. The application of AI promises to render traditional methods, such as manual camera checks, identification tags, and GPS tracking, obsolete.

“With the rapid advancement of artificial intelligence in recent years, the technology now possesses the capability not only to identify koalas as a whole but also to differentiate between individual koalas utilizing these crossings,” explained Zhou, underscoring the immense potential of AI in safeguarding koala populations.

Previously, video monitoring of koala crossings relied on manual review by human observers to identify the species. However, with AI and facial recognition technology, this labour-intensive process will be streamlined, enabling swift and accurate detection of individual koalas.

Expected to be deployed by July 2021, the pilot study, titled “Predicting Koala Road Crossing Behaviours using AI-Powered Observation Network,” will entail the installation of 20 cameras at koala-friendly crossing locations near Brisbane, the capital of Queensland. To refine the AI system, close collaboration with conservation groups will be established, training the technology to differentiate between individual koalas based on their unique appearances and movements.

The urgency of protecting koalas stems from the alarming decline in their population caused by factors such as bushfires, habitat loss, construction, and expanding human development. While not officially classified as endangered, koalas are considered a “vulnerable” species by the Australian authorities, and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) designates them as “threatened” on its “Red List” of endangered species.

According to Griffith University, an average of 356 koalas required care facilities annually between 1997 and 2018 due to vehicular accidents. Hence, preventing fatalities and injuries caused by vehicles remains a critical aspect of koala conservation efforts.

The devastating bushfires of 2019-2020 claimed the lives of an estimated 5,000 koalas, prompting a parliamentary inquiry in New South Wales. The inquiry warned that without urgent intervention to protect their habitats, koalas could face extinction in the state by 2050.

By introducing AI-powered facial recognition technology to monitor koalas, researchers aim to reverse the decline of this iconic species. Through comprehensive analysis of their road-crossing behaviours, informed decisions can be made to improve existing wildlife crossings, reducing the impact of human activities on koala populations. This groundbreaking project showcases the potential of AI technology in creating an environment that fosters the coexistence of wildlife and human development, leading us toward a harmonious AI environment.

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