How can technology help fight against poaching? Researchers at Cornell University had an idea. By constantly recording forest elephants they could mine the data and determine when elephant populations were in danger and more quickly find where poachers were located. Unfortunately, they also had a problem. Their research generates seven terabytes of data every three months. (That's the equivalent of 2 million MP3s.) Lots of data points are good but sorting through seven terabytes of data takes weeks which makes it too slow of a method to help the elephants in real time.
Enter: Artificial Intelligence (AI).
The Elephant Listening Project, which is based at Cornell, announced this week that they were starting a partnership with the startup Conservation Metrics.
Both teams are pretty excited at the prospects.
“A key thing this collaboration will do is speed things up, so we can show the people who manage the national park that we can provide information that will make a difference,” said Peter Wrege, director of the Elephant Listening Project (ELP). “If it takes us a year to figure out what elephants are doing in the forest, it’s already too late.”
The folks at Conservation Metrics seemed equally ready to take on the challenge.
“What the Elephant Listening Project is doing in terms of working with collaborators on these sites in Africa is really impressive, but the logistics are really hard,” said Matthew McKown, CEO of Conservation Metrics. “It’s a truly ambitious project, and it’s the first time we’re actually realizing the potential of these automated monitoring approaches.”