November 26, 2018

3:16 pm

Aiding Elephants on Cyber Monday

As today is the first Monday after Thanksgiving, it is also — as first post-Thanksgiving Mondays have been since 2005 — Cyber Monday. #CyberMonday, as it is also known, is a commercial “holiday” in which consumers are encouraged to shop online.

But here, at Moving Giants, we thought it would be a good time to check in on ways technology is being used to help elephants. Here are a few examples:

Anti-Poaching Radio Collars:

A team at Vanderbilt University has developed a new wearable technology — for elephants. The WIPER system is designed to alert rangers in Gabon for the shockwave sounds and impact of high-powered rifles, the kind commonly used to kill elephants by poachers.

As reported by the rainforest-information website Monga Bay, “WIPER provides real-time alerts and location data when a rifle is fired within 50 meters of the collared animal. WIPER may not protect the animal wearing it, but it helps security personnel close in on poachers, which may deter future poaching.”

The report also notes that “WIPER’s design overcomes two key challenges for high-tech wildlife monitoring: power source (by creating a sleep mode) and cost (by putting designs in the public domain).”

AI To the Rescue:

When elephants are in trouble in remote regions, previous technology was too slow to be of any real help. But now a new collaboration between Cornell University and the startup Conservation Metrics is using AI in the Republic of Congo to speed up the alert systems — and the response time.

“Cornell's Elephant Listening Project tracks African forest elephants with acoustic sensors, but the forests are so remote and the sound files so huge it takes months to collect and analyze the data – too long to rescue the animals from poachers or other threats.”

“Now scientists can learn critical information about the elephants' habits and patterns in a fifth of the time. A startup, Conservation Metrics, developed a tool that uses artificial intelligence to distinguish the low-frequency, long-duration elephant calls from other rainforest sounds.”

Earthquake Detection Helping Elephants:

Smithsonian Magazine reports that British researchers from the universities of Oxford and Bristol have successfully transformed earthquake-detection geophones into elephant-aiding technology that can help save elephants in Kenya.

“A team of researchers recently measured the “seismic signatures” of various elephant activities—like walking and snorting—using tools that were developed to monitor earthquakes. The scientists placed geophones, which convert ground vibrations into electronic signals, near the stomping grounds of wild elephants in Kenya.”

Using computer models, the team made “visual depictions of the vibrations,” which could travel surprisingly long distances.

"We found that the forces generated through elephant calls were comparable to the forces generated by a fast elephant walk,” Beth Mortimer, a biologist at the University of Oxford and the University of Bristol and lead author of the study, said in a statement. “This means that elephant calls can travel significant distances through the ground and, in favorable conditions, further than the distance that calls travel through the air.”

This is important because elephants “run and cry out when faced with threats, which, as the new study has shown, generates unique seismic patterns,” which can allow rangers to move in when they receive alerts about the patterns.