TrailGuard AI: AI-powered cameras deployed to protect against poachers

By Luke Christou

Mobile satellite communications provider Inmarsat has teamed up with environmental non-profit RESOLVE to deploy an artificial intelligence (AI) powered system to protect endangered wildlife from poachers across the African continent.

Named TrailGuard AI, the technology is able to recognise humans within images captured by small cameras hidden along nature reserve trails. Tests show that the TrailGuard AI system is able to detect humans with 97% accuracy.

When a human is detected, the system uses Inmarsat’s mobile satellite communications network to instantly transmit back to park rangers, who are notified of their exact location and are able to intervene before any wildlife comes to harm.

Using TrailGuard AI to catch poaching gangs

Given the remote locations in which the TrailGuard AI is needed most, RESOLVE needed a reliable satellite connectivity solution in order for the solution to work. The organisation believes that, with the help of Inmarsat, park rangers will be able to detect 80% of poaching gangs operating in any given area – by far the most effective strategy available for the amount of resources and manpower that is currently available.

“Our collaboration will ensure that when TrailGuard detects a poacher, rangers are notified immediately of their exact location and can initiate an effective response, no matter how remote the environment,” Alastair Bovim, vice president of Managed Services at Inmarsat Enterprise, explained.

RESOLVE developed the system to address the lack of affordable technology designed to aid law enforcement. While technologies are available to detect and track contraband from the illegal wildlife trade, there is a lack of technology to stop poachers from reaching their targets in the first place.

“Wildlife poaching in Africa is at epidemic levels, but despite the best efforts of dedicated rangers, the large park boundaries and rough terrain mean that they often only find out about poaching when it’s too late,” Eric Dinerstein, director of WildTech and the Biodiversity and Wildlife Solutions Program at RESOLVE, said.

“The TrailGuard solution acts as an early warning system, transitioning ranger teams into fully mobile, rapid-response units so that they can respond to would-be poachers and stop them in their tracks.”

The TrailGuard AI system has already been deployed at the Singita-Grumeti reserve in Tanzania, and has so far helped rangers to capture 30 poachers in the region.

RESOLVE has identified 100 parks that are at the highest risk of being targeted by poachers, and hopes to deploy 10 TrailGuard AI sensors in poacher intrusion hotspots in each of the parks identified by 2020.

The organisation has received funding from the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation and National Geographic Society to help achieve its target.

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