👂AI listening device helps rangers deal with illegal logging

👂AI listening device helps rangers deal with illegal logging

The conservationists and rangers of the Sumatran rainforest, home to a very unique ecosystem, have got a nifty helper - AI listening devices.

Linn Winge
Linn Winge

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The Indonesian island Sumatra’s rainforest is home to a very unique ecosystem sheltering some of the worlds most critically endangered species. Actually, it’s the only place on earth where rhinos, elephants, tigers and orangutans live together. Sadly there is only about 600 Sumatran tigers and less than 100 rhinos still in the wild. Poaching has had a very big impact, but illegal logging and deforestation have perhaps had an even deeper impact since crucial habitats are destroyed. To track these issues rangers with the Warsi Indonesian Conservation Community (KKI Warsi) now use AI listening devices.

A nonprofit tech organisation called Rainforest Connection uses AI algorithms to put spies across the rainforest. The spy, also known as “The Guardian” is Rainforest Connection’s creation and it uses a Google technology called TensorFlow. TensorFlow allows intelligent listening devices to record sounds in the rainforest, pick those most pertinent and then forward them in realtime to rangers’ smartphones. The technology has been around for a few years and used by an Amazon tribe. But just recently the invention was combined with TensorFlow which is Google's free and open-source software library designed to facilitate machine learning applications.

Rainforest Connection has developed a searchable “Audio Ark” with sounds from the rainforest. A community of contributors has filled the Audio Ark with both sounds from animals and human activity. The TensorFlow technology can compare sounds it hears in the forest to those in the library and single out specific sounds to forward to the rangers.

The listening devices are quite simple, they consist of a solar panel, battery, used cellphone and voice recorder.

Picture: Rainforest Connection via Reset

This system can help with wildlife monitoring and allowing rangers to keep track of certain species in an easy way. For Sumatra, discovering the sounds of logging and human activity is as important as tracking the animals. Sumatras native animals rely on the rainforest and its cover to survive.

KKI Warsi program manager Rainal Daus explained to Reset that “The Guardian” helped rangers to respond more efficiently and in strength to real-time incidents:

“Using this tool, our forest rangers will be able to monitor the forest's condition real-time. This will make it easier for them to take immediate action if there is illegal logging activity taking place in the forest.”