Back in July, we set up a competition where you could win 30,000 Euros to develop technology to reduce human-wildlife conflict
We are excited to announce the winners for the first International Human-Wildlife Conflict Technology Challenge! WWF and WildLabs asked applicants to propose technological solutions to develop early-warning systems, letting communities know if carnivores or elephants were approaching. And the winners are….. *drumroll*
British researcher Alasdair Davies and the Dutch team of Laurens de Groot and Tim van Dam will each receive €30,000 to further develop and field test their solutions for reducing human-wildlife conflicts.
These two applications were chosen from 47 innovative ideas originating from 14 countries.
The Carnivore Category Winner
Alasdair Davies, of The Arribada Initiative, will work on producing technology to develop early-warning systems for tigers and polar bears. Fortunately for us here at WWF-UK, Alasdair is based just down the road in Surrey.
“We plan to use a new type of infrared sensor to detect the body heat of individual species – something that was previously impossible to do,” Alasdair explains. “Traditionally, infrared sensors have been used in home security to detect if burglars have entered a room, but they aren’t very clever – they can’t tell what has actually been detected, so if a pet dog or cat enters the room, they would still trigger – which isn’t very useful!”
He will use this novel infrared temperature sensor, placed in grids, to determine the presence of a carnivore walking past by detecting their unique shape. These “thermopile infrared sensors” can also pick up the size, movement, direction and actions of the animal that has been detected.
“Because we can generate an image of what we’re looking at, we can now identify the exact species and tell the difference between an elephant or a tiger, for example,” he says.
The sensors will be open source, cheap and easy to use, being mounted on traditional fence poles. If connected to a mobile phone station, real-time alerts could be sent via text message to the local community that an approaching polar bear or tiger is approaching. This could be revolutionary in being able to reduce carnivore attacks on people, livestock, property and pets.
Alasdair says that “winning this WWF/WildLabs award is particularly special to me as it opens the door to solving conservation technology challenges together as a community, not just as individuals. I feel that’s incredibly important if we want to have the greatest impact.”
Alasdair, a Shuttleworth Foundation Fellow and Technical Adviser to the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), works with the tech giants of the world like Google and Raspberry Pi and has co-founded two conservation-related tech organisations. He has 10 years experience researching, developing and implementing technical solutions to solve conservation challenges globally, so we are very excited for him to be involved in the carnivore case!
The Elephant Category Winner
ShadowView, a tech company from the Netherlands. won the elephant category. Their proposed technology uses their LoRa network to develop early-warning systems for Asian elephants in India. LoRa is similar to radio and infrared frequencies but exploits the lower frequencies that aren’t currently used.
The telecommunication technology will improve the effectiveness of electric fences so reduce conflict between people and elephants. Sensors that detect the presence of elephants are placed along an electric fence. Once the sensors detect elephants within a certain distance of the fence, the alarms activate a flashlight or send a message to warn villages. These clever sensors also detect power leaks in the fence itself.
Given that over 1,000 people have been killed by elephants in India in the last few years, this innovative tech is much needed and could help save the lives of villagers as well as elephants who are sometimes killed in retaliation.
One of the competition judges, Mohanraj from India, is enthusiastic about the possibilities in the field: “Technology like this is the future. It will enable us to integrate various systems monitoring species movement, voltage on fences and other important variables. Europe and especially the Netherlands are front-runners in this technology and I’m very excited to see this applied in elephant conservation in India.”
Field testing of the winning proposals will start in India in 2018 and news updates can be followed on WILDLABS. Since the proposals are complementary and can reinforce each other’s effectiveness the developers are encouraged to collaborate. We will also be updating you regularly with their progress from the field, so stay tuned!
For more information on how WWF is working to reduce human-wildlife conflict, check out this page.