In Africa and Asia, poaching is reaching epidemic proportions and placing iconic mammals at risk of extinction within our lifetimes. While new technologies have emerged to track and analyze contraband from the illegal wildlife trade, there are no affordable technologies that help law enforcement effectively locate poachers before they reach their target animals. To help address this challenge, RESOLVE partnered with Steve Gulick (a conservation technologist) and Intel to develop TrailGuard™ AI, a cryptic anti-poaching camera system designed to stop poachers before they kill.
TrailGuard AI is used as a security system for national parks to detect, stop, and arrest poachers. The technology also helps improve intelligence on poaching and related illicit networks, helping authorities crack down on illegal wildlife trade. Small enough to conceal along trails, TrailGuard AI’s camera head uses artificial intelligence to detect humans within the images and relays pictures containing humans back to park headquarters via GSM, long-range radio, or satellite networks. The TrailGuard AI technology was field-tested at the Grumeti Reserve in Tanzania, where it enabled the arrest of thirty poachers and the seizure of over 1,300 lb. of bushmeat.
To help meet a growing demand for this technology, RESOLVE is developing, implementing, and scaling the technology to make TrailGuard AI as affordable as possible to ensure its widespread use across wildlife reserves that desperately need the technology. TrailGuard AI is just one conservation tool that RESOLVE is developing through WildTech@RESOLVE, an enterprise committed to developing durable, high-technology devices to facilitate the protection and monitoring of wildlife.
The new TrailGuard AI camera uses Intel-powered artificial intelligence (AI) technology to detect poachers entering Africa’s wildlife reserves and alert park rangers in near real-time so poachers can be stopped before killing endangered animals. TrailGuard AI builds on anti-poaching prototypes funded by Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation and National Geographic Society.
How It Works:
TrailGuard AI uses Intel® Movidius® Vision Processing Units (VPUs) for image processing, running deep neural network algorithms for object detection and image classification inside the camera. If humans are detected among any of the motion-activated images captured by the camera, it triggers electronic alerts to park personnel so they can mobilize rangers before poachers can do harm.
Why It’s Important:
According to RESOLVE, an elephant is killed every 15 minutes by a poacher, at a rate of approximately 35,000 elephants per year. In a decade, experts predict there won’t be any more elephants. Rhinos, gorillas, tigers and other large mammals are also in danger from poachers, as are giraffes, antelopes and wildebeest that are often caught in poachers’ snares.
“Reckless human activity is causing species loss and extinction on an unprecedented scale, with recent reports showing that as many as 60 percent of all wildlife has been wiped out since 1970. If illegal poaching of wildlife continues at the current rate, elephants are just one of the large mammal species that will be completely erased in our lifetime,” said Justin Winters, executive director, Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, which provided critical funding for prototypes and is working to support broad-based deployment of these systems. “A commitment to protecting wildlife has been at the heart of LDF’s work from the beginning and we are excited to collaborate with Intel and RESOLVE on this breakthrough AI technology, which is set to be a game-changer for park rangers in the monitoring and management of endangered species around the world.”
How It’s Different:
TrailGuard AI uses deep neural network algorithms that allow the device to recognize humans and vehicles with a high degree of accuracy. TrailGuard AI builds upon the success of RESOLVE’s first-generation TrailGuard camera deployed in protected reserves that alerts rangers any time it detects motion. With the first-generation camera, rangers receive many photos that they had to manually review to determine if there is a poaching threat or a false-positive triggered by other motion. By adding an additional layer of AI into the system, TrailGuard AI intelligently knows when a potential poacher is present, allowing park rangers to rapidly intercept and apprehend.
TrailGuard AI is powered by the tiny yet powerful Intel® Movidius™ Myriad™ 2 VPU, which delivers visual intelligence to the camera itself, resulting in several important benefits:
Limited false-positives: Instead of alerting the rangers anytime there is motion in front of the camera, including from shifting cloud cover, birds and animals, TrailGuard AI only sends images to the rangers when a person or vehicle is detected. Limited false-positives means rangers have more time to focus on their work, instead of spending their time looking through hundreds of false alerts each day.
Long battery life: The Intel Movidius VPU powers all of TrailGuard AI’s processing needs – from wake-on-motion to image processing to AI inference to communication protocols — all while running at very low power. It is designed to perform in the wild for up to 1.5 years without depleting the battery. This is a great improvement over the original TrailGuard that has a separate computing unit requiring rangers to undertake the time-consuming and often dangerous task of field maintenance every four to six weeks. TrailGuard AI’s long battery life also means less foot-traffic around the hidden cameras, which could alert poachers to their locations.
Small in size: Due to the miniscule size of the Intel Movidius VPU, TrailGuard AI is about the size of a pencil and easier to hide and camouflage from poachers and wild animals.
“The Intel Movidius VPU allowed us to revolutionize TrailGuard AI by adding artificial intelligence to a proven end-to-end solution to stop illegal poaching around the world,” said Eric Dinerstein, director of biodiversity and wildlife at RESOLVE. “In addition to providing the AI technology, Intel engineers worked closely with us to build, test and optimize this incredible anti-poaching solution that will make a real difference in saving animals.”
Where TrailGuard AI is Deployed:
In partnership with the National Geographic Society, Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation and others, TrailGuard AI will be deployed in 100 reserves in Africa throughout 2022, starting with Serengeti and Garamba, with plans to expand to Southeast Asia and South America.
“Edge computing technology has the power to revolutionize the way we understand and protect our natural heritage,” said Dr. Fabien Laurier, vice president of National Geographic Labs. “National Geographic is excited to work with Intel on TrailGuard AI and deploy these anti-poaching systems throughout Africa. This collaboration is critical to accelerating conservation and working toward our mission of achieving a planet in balance.”