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September 17, 2020 - Mongabay

New artificial intelligence could save both elephant and human lives

New artificial intelligence could save both elephant and human lives
Asian elephants protecting young elephant© Photabulous!

When the elephant arrived in the night, on the hunt for sugarcane, Uthorn Kanthong was waiting for him. Like many of his neighbors, the 69-year-old Thai farmer had taken to staying in his fields into the late hours, to try and scare off elephants that came to snack on his crop. He usually returned home by midnight. But that night in 2018, he didn’t come back.

Worried, his daughter sent out family and friends to look for him. Word came in a few hours later, from local rescue workers: Kanthong was dead. They found him in his field, surrounded by elephant footprints. His legs, arms, and ribs were all fractured. The chief of a nearby national park suspected a male elephant named Bieng, who had been spotted raiding crops nearby.

Reported in the Bangkok Post, this story is all too familiar for anyone who lives in close proximity to elephants. Though people all over the world love elephants, farmers often fear and even loathe them for their habit of raiding local fields and entering small villages, especially as elephants’ habitat and food sources have dwindled.

Hundreds of humans and elephants alike die every year in these conflicts. And as deforestation and growing human populations push people and wildlife ever closer together, these conflicts are becoming more frequent. But what if a tiny, barely visible camera with a very smart brain could stop a conflict before it starts?

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