Stars Align for Wildlife Conservation

What do you get when you cross astronomy with ecology?

A new study reveals it just might be the solution to poaching.

Scientists have been utilizing the benefits of drones to capture photos and track species from the skies. They can cover large areas of rugged, isolated terrain in short amounts of time with limited labor.

But there are limitations to this practice as a defense against poaching. Regular cameras cannot capture animals clearly at night or when they are properly camouflaged, which are two major covers for poachers.

Faced with the impending threat to wildlife conservation, scientists at Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) got creative. They applied astrophysical software and techniques to the thermal infrared imagery captured by the drones.

The software has been developed to recognize different animals over various landscapes and vegetation. Now, the drones can identify species-specific heat signatures, day or night, regardless of camouflage.

The technique was tested on cows on a small farm in England first, then on to various zoo animals, and finally a field test in South Africa on an elusive endangered rabbit. Before this test, there had only been 1,000 sightings of Riverine rabbits to date, but the new technique spotted five on its first full trial.

There are still some adjustments needed to factor in weather and height of capture, but this opens a new creative way to tackle poaching in the future.

Source: Science Daily


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