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How AI Is Changing Wildlife Research

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three giraffes

The ability of computers to automatically identify individual giraffes from their distinct coat patterns provides scientists with an affordable and efficient way to track population numbers.

Credit: Getty Images

A software program developed by the conservation technology nonprofit Wild ME automatically identifies individual animals by their unique coat patterns or other distinguishing features.

The nonprofit Giraffe Conservation Foundation and San Diego Zoo researcher Jenna Stacy-Dawes used the Wildbook software to take dozens of photos of a giraffe population over two days, uploaded the images and location data to the GiraffeSpotter database, and assessed giraffe numbers across three wildlife conservancies in Northern Kenya. GiraffeSpotter will be publicly accessible by the end of the year, allowing all interested parties to upload their giraffe photos and location data to the online database.

GiraffeSpotter is the latest example of how artificial intelligence is being used in service of conservation. "Computer vision can offer a lot not just for wildlife conservation applications but also sustainability more broadly," says Dan Morris, a principal researcher in the Microsoft for Earth program.

From National Geographic
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