How Google’s AI Could Help Protect Endangered Species

How Google’s AI Could Help Protect Endangered Species

Google has launched an AI platform to aid in the tracking and conservation of wildlife. Currently in its beta version, Wildlife Insights may be a useful tool in helping to protect and restore endangered species populations.

Researchers across the globe use camera-traps — motion detector cameras — to capture photos of animals in the wild. It can be a useful tool for finding rare animals. As the world’s largest camera-trap photo database, Wildlife Insights will provide users with real-time data about animals that most never get to see.

Users can filter photos by species, country, and year and download the data. Per Conservation International, it can even help identify blurry photos: “Artificial intelligence technology developed by Google also helps camera-trap researchers to identify species in a fraction of a second, dramatically speeding up the pace at which this information can be processed and analyzed, making data available for decision-makers in near real-time.”

These candid photos are often not shared, the organization notes, so it deprives researchers the opportunity to collect data. And while membership is public — kids, students, teachers, nonprofits, and beyond can join — the location of endangered species is obscured.


How Wildlife Insights Works

Browsing photos of animals you’ll never meet is a fine use of time. But, the data collected by Wildlife Insights aims to have practical uses, too. People who manage protected or anti-poaching areas will be able to monitor specific species. Conservation International notes that several populations have increased or have been stabilized thanks to protected areas. Species include jaguars, Asian elephants, and the Indonesian bush dog. Wildlife Insights will give people access to more data, faster.

Wildlife Insights would theoretically amplify existing efforts and find use outside of protecting endangered species. Organizations that run reforestation programs could check that their efforts are bringing back wildlife. A government might use the tool to “show that they are responsibly managing the impacts of their activities on local environments.

Wildlife Insights’ founding team includes Google, Conservation International, the WWF (World Wildlife Fund), the Smithsonian, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and the North Carolina Museum of Natural History. Its database is now open to the public.