Pioneering a new approach to wildlife conservation, Vulcan Inc., founded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, is utilising cutting-edge AI environment technologies to predict and prevent poaching activities in Zimbabwe’s national parks.
In a trailblazing venture designed to leverage artificial intelligence (AI) for the benefit of the environment, Vulcan Inc., the Seattle-based philanthropic tech firm established by the late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, is spearheading an initiative aimed at safeguarding the wildlife of a Zimbabwean national park by predicting potential poacher activity. As reported by Fast Company, Vulcan’s AI systems are set to revolutionise how national parks across the continent approach conservation efforts.
The spotlight is on Gonarezhou National Park in southeastern Zimbabwe, a park of considerable size, somewhat larger than the Grand Canyon. Until the AI-led intervention, the park’s management had been relying on rudimentary methods such as pins and coloured dots on a wall map to monitor poachers. They would update these makeshift markers based on incoming reports from rangers on the ground about gunshots, footprints, and other signs of possible poaching.
Vulcan stepped in to assist, helping the park transition to its advanced digital system, EarthRanger, in April. This cutting-edge technology uses an interactive digital map that collates and visualises data in real time, including details about wildlife tracked via collars, sensor data from vehicles, images from satellites and drones, and on-the-ground reports from rangers and informants.
This revolutionary AI environment strategy is not limited to Zimbabwe. Eleven other wildlife parks across Africa have adopted this technological approach, which aids park managers in responding swiftly to immediate threats and helps them identify patterns over time.
The advanced AI systems go beyond what traditional means could achieve. Although it is widely known that poaching activities tend to surge during full moon periods, the EarthRanger system enables park officials to unearth other, less obvious patterns hidden in the data, thereby allowing them to adopt a proactive approach to conservation.
Although the AI tools are still being refined, some features have already been deployed and proven beneficial. A heat map feature, initially trialled at Grumeti Game Reserve in Tanzania and Liwonde National Park in Malawi, has enabled park rangers to focus their efforts on high-risk zones, typically near park borders. Furthermore, a “time slider” feature provides park managers with insights into the timing of incidents and the corresponding positions of both animals and rangers, thus enhancing communication and coordination among rangers.
Vulcan embarked on this ambitious project following the Great Elephant Census, which revealed a disconcerting 30% decline in the African elephant population between 2007 and 2014. Since the launch of EarthRanger in 2016, Vulcan has been diligently working with park managers and conservation organizations to ensure the technology serves as a user-centered tool rather than a fleeting intervention. Vulcan intends to publish data on the efficacy of this technology in the near future.
EcoWatch reports that Vulcan is currently expanding the initiative through its Vulcan Machine Learning Center for Impact. This development represents a concerted push to scale up machine learning technologies for public good, broadening the scope of the technology’s application in other crucial areas such as illegal fishing and coral reef preservation.
Thus, Vulcan’s adoption of AI environment tools serves as a striking testament to the potential of artificial intelligence to transform our approach to wildlife conservation, paving the way for more effective, data-driven strategies to protect our planet’s most vulnerable species.
- AI Climate Change
- AI Climate Data
- AI pollution
- AI Sustainability
- Eco AI
- Ecological AI
- Save the Planet with AI