Beyond humans: how facial recognition helps in wildlife preservation

Beyond humans: how facial recognition helps in wildlife preservation
Facial recognition software has already proved to be of immense benefit when it comes to capturing criminals and boosting security. But some innovative developments in the field are making the technology effective in fields beyond the identification of human faces. In fact, facial recognition technology now promises to help authorities tackle problems such as illegal trafficking of endangered species. 

Researchers at the Michigan State University recently came up with a facial recognition software and app that can help protect endangered primates.  Anil Jain, Professor at MSU, along with his doctoral student Debayan Deb, created PrimNet, a facial recognition application for golden monkeys, a species that have seen a dramatic population-decline in recent years mainly due to illegal trading. 

Traditional wildlife conservation approach included capturing animals and tagging them so that they can be tracked to ensure their safety. However, this process is considerably expensive and time-consuming. Tracking devices can cost up to US$4000. Moreover, the system is inevitably an intrusion into the natural habitat of the animals and can cause adverse effects. 

PrimNet, using convolutional neural networks, offers a better solution. Researchers just need to click a picture of the animal and the use the software to identify it. 

“We compared PrimID to our own benchmark primate recognition system and two, open-source human face recognition systems, and the performance of PrimNet was superior in verification one-to-one comparison and identification, or one-to-many comparisons, scenarios,” Jain was quoted by MSUToday. “Moving forward, we plan to enlarge our primate datasets, develop a primate face detector and share our efforts through open-source websites.”

This is not the first time biometric technology has been used in wildlife conservation. Jain and his team had earlier come up with LemurFaceID, a software that could accurately identify up to 100 different lemurs with 98.7 percent accuracy. 

In 2015, Kenya-based Lion Guardians, a group that, as the name suggests works to protect lions in Africa, began using facial recognition technology with a database. A report on the Scientific American pointed out that conventional wildlife conservation practices in Africa came with a host of difficulties. The inflated cost of GPS tracking devices that need to have their batteries replaced every three years was a technical challenge. 

A similar technology, reportedly developed by the UK-based company, is used in India to protect Bengal Tigers, that are facing extinction due to poachers hunting them down for their skin and body parts that are considered of value in Chinese medicine. The system includes a network of cameras that are fixed in jungles, that click pictures when movement is detected. These pictures are uploaded to a software which analyses the patterns on the animal’s face.  

These are just a few instances where facial recognition technology has been used in wildlife preservation. And it is just one of the examples of how facial recognition goes beyond its traditional applications in security. Would traditional systems integrators working with biometrics-technology consider expanding to such new areas?   


Product Adopted:
Biometrics


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