Algorithms for Elephants and Rhinos


Drone Launch (credit: UDS)

It is twilight, between 6:30 PM and 8:30 PM; a team of poachers feigns a distressed vehicle on a roadside near an animal reserve somewhere in southern Africa. Having scouted the animal earlier in the day, or having been tipped off by a corrupt official or willing tribesman, they quickly move into action. They kill, cut off horns and tusks, and rapidly leave the area, all under the cover of darkness. Poachers operate under the cover of night–rangers haven’t had an effective way to anticipate where attacks are likely to occur across the vast land areas that need protecting–until now.

Air Shepherd, a new initiative of the Lindbergh Foundation is bringing together technology partners: Peace Parks Foundation (PPF), UAV and Drone Solutions (UDS) and the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies (UMIACS), for an innovative new approach to successfully stop poaching of elephants and rhinos in southern Africa.

Aerial View of Elephants (credit: Air Shepherd)

Exponential Loss
Africa is loosing about 7% of its elephant population to poaching annually, according to research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, nearly 40,000 elephants were killed by poachers last year alone. Elephant births occur at a rate of only 5% annually–this means, more elephants are being killed than are being born. At this rate, based on current animal population rates from the African Elephant Database (AED), all elephants in the wild will be dead in approximately ten years.

The situation is equally dire for rhinos, according to data published by the South African Department of Environmental Affairs (2015) an astounding 1,215 rhinos were killed by poachers in South Africa in 2014–that’s 3 rhinos per day–one rhino every eight hours.

The Western black rhino was declared —> Read More