Science

Soon, star gazing infrared technology will prevent illegal poaching of endangered animal species

Soon, star gazing infrared technology will prevent illegal poaching of endangered animal species

Advanced infrared instruments are used to detect stars and galaxies located in the far-off corner of the universe. Researchers at the Royal Astronomical Society and ecologists from Liverpool John Moores University began a research study to detect the presence of animals in infrared cameras as well as detect the presence of poachers and hunters. The system will automatically warn the wardens and animal keepers and protect these animals from getting hunted and eventually prevent them from extinction as a result of extensive hunting.

As per the research paper, star’s heat emission is recorded by sophisticated instruments and cameras that might otherwise aren’t visible to naked eyes. It reveals plenty of details about it. For instance, NASA’s Mars Odyssey use Thermal Emission Imaging System to scan the region in the universe for galaxies and stars that can help researchers in carrying out further investigations. The same technique will now be used by ecologists around the globe to detect the signatures of animals and poachers so that the automated system can warn the wardens. This will prevent poaching of animals especially endangered species which would eventually extinct if poaching isn’t stopped.

Scientists responsible for this study along with members from Knowsley Safari Park and Chester Zoo created a system which has captured thermal signatures emitted by different species of animals. The system is based on machine-learning and it can also distinguish between humans and animals no matter how well-camouflaged they might be. The system uses astronomical grade detection tools developed by Astropy, an open source software along with machine-learning algorithms. Researchers at LJMU used the system back in mid-2017 at a farm in Wirral, northwest England where it used drones to capture infrared footage of cows and humans. Moving further, the system was exposed to different species of animals such as baboons and rhinos and whole lof other species that would help it detect the presence of these species when in action.

The automated system will use an array of drones equipped with state-of-the-art infrared detection tools that will keep an eye on infrared signatures of animals as well as potential poachers who might approach the endangered animal species in order to hunt and then, trade them for money. The system is capable of working seamlessly even in pitch black night thus giving the animal keepers and wardens an edge over the poachers and prevent hunting, especially at night when it is mostly performed.

Researchers took the drones to South Africa for a trial run on one of the endangered species, Riverine rabbit which performed really well. Further investigations will be performed on river dolphins in Brazil, Orangutans in Malaysia and spider monkeys in Mexico as a part of an initial field trial. Once the system is deployed, it will be automated and will monitor a larger part of the terrain for thermal emissions. The advantages of using such technique are that poaching of endangered species can be curbed. Then, since the system will have drones flying over the natural habitats of these animals, it won’t affect them.

After several field tests, the team of researchers at LJMU and Royal Astronomical Society are upgrading the system to enhance its capability to perform even in bad weather, rain, and other factors that might intertwine the thermal emissions. Dr. Claire Burke of LJMU presented the project at the European Week of Astronomy and Space Science (EWASS) on April 3, Tuesday, in Liverpool.

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