It’s always sad to think back at animals that don’t exist anymore. We always wonder about dinosaurs and see their fossils in museums yet we don’t think that one day if we don’t take action, animals we take for granted might get extinct and end up only in museums alongside the dinosaur fossils. Recent technological advancements might be the key to saving these endangered species, with AI and drones having the potential to become integral tools in conservation efforts.
Drones can aid us in the battle against invasive species not native to the environment that out-compete other species for resources. They have also proved themselves capable of aiding in protecting endangered species and habitats. This non-invasive approach allows for the efficient monitoring of wildlife, especially in remote and hard-to-reach areas or for species that are easily disturbed.
Minimal disturbance to animals
The team at Flinders University, led by Dr. Diane Colombelli-Négrel, employed drones to record koalas in treetops. The researchers noticed that drone activity near their trees did not substantially increase the heart rates of the koalas, as measured by their Fitbit trackers. Koalas have a very low on protein diet based on eucalyptus leaves so they need over 20 hours of sleep per day to compensate, so disturbing them would prove counter-productive for the protection efforts. This also applies to lots of other endangered species.
The researchers also monitored the vulnerable little penguin population on Granite Island, South Australia. They employed acoustic software and night-time video recordings to monitor penguin vocalizations and assess the impacts of human activities on their behavior. The study’s findings not only highlighted the effects of disturbances caused by tourists but also identified other threats, including land predators.
The application of drones and advanced technologies extends beyond the realm of koalas, penguins, or any single species. There are more than 40 thousand species threatened with extinction. For many of them, these technologies are perhaps the last hope of survival. Making use of technology such as drones provides a non-invasive and efficient means of monitoring wildlife in remote or sensitive areas, all with unprecedented precision and efficiency. With this, conservationists can develop targeted strategies for species individually according to their monitoring results.
YouTube: Drones used to track endangered koalas in Australia
Photo credit: The images used are owned by Dr. Colombelli-Négrel and provided by Flinders University for press usage.
Sources: ScienceDirect / Flinders University / IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature)