Artificial Intelligence: AI Protects Endangered Sea Turtles From Feral Pigs

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Feral pigs can smell turtles’ eggs, dig up the nests and devour the eggs.

Sea turtles are an endangered species, not only from mankind’s activities. Their nests on Queensland’s western Cape York are a favorite prey for feral pigs. The pigs have wiped out sea turtles from great swathes of beaches south of Aurukun, in the Far North Queensland, Australia. Scientists at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia’s national science research agency, and rangers have tried for the past six years to protect the nests from the marauding pigs using drones and helicopters. However, they are now harnessing AI for the purpose. (ABC News)

Tedious watch

Though the joint effort has cut the pig raids by 30%, the work is time-taking and laborious. Each recce could produce tens of thousands of images. It was all simply too much to analyze manually.

According to CSIRO scientist Justin Perry, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) developed AI that speeded up the process dramatically.

“We automate that entire process and the computer does it for us in two hours, so it’s a pretty remarkable change,” Dr. Perry said.

Lee Hickin, chief technology officer for Microsoft Australia, said “It’s able to understand is it land, is it water and then more specifically, is it turtle tracks, is it pig tracks, is it a turtle nest.”

Only one in a thousand hatchlings makes it to adulthood.

James Cook University turtle researcher Jennie Gilbert said: “They have so many threats when they enter the ocean, to be able to get more turtles into the ocean would actually increase the likelihood of having more turtles for the future.”

Scalable to satellite?

The AI in use at western Cape York could one day form the basis for vigilance using satellite imagery.

“The AI model that we’ve built to identify turtle tracks can be applied to learn any other animal species or biodiversity event, it can look for anything,” said Hickin.

Related Story:  Machine Learning To Identify Whale Sounds, Warn Ships

Image credit: Flickr                                                

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