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Brief Published: 25 Sep 2018

Crime-Fighting Algorithm Will Help Prevent Tiger Extinction

Less than 4,000 tigers remain in the wild

Artificial intelligence (AI) is being used to help identify and intervene in areas where human-animal interaction is threatening the tiger population. With less than 4,000 tigers remaining in the wild, technology such as this may be crucial in preserving a species on the brink of extinction (WWF, 2018).

Researchers from the University of Kent have used computer modelling to determine where conflict between humans and endangered tigers is most likely to take place in Sumatra, Indonesia. Their research analysed 13 years' worth of data on human-tiger interaction, revealing areas where conflict is more likely - such as near villages and on certain connecting routes.

The researchers also mapped attitudes towards tigers among residents in the area, plotting where tolerance of tigers was particularly low. Combining the maps has identified high-risk areas where tiger killings, in retaliation against livestock being lost to big cats, are more likely. By using the algorithm, conservationists can identify where intervention is most vital, helping locals to secure livestock and remove tiger snares.

The algorithm was adapted from crime-fighting technology, where human-on-human attacks were likewise mapped to determine where law enforcement would be best placed to prevent outbreaks of crime. The algorithm also has the potential to be adapted to prevent the killing of other species facing human and natural threats.

As more advanced forms of machine learning and AI move into the mainstream, there's potential for brands to donate their proprietary technologies and resources to novel uses, benefitting the environment and humanitarian causes. See our Technology With a Conscience report for examples of these initiatives. For more on using technology to ensure a sustainable future, see our Sustainability Turns Smart Product Design report.