AI Technology Helps African Turtle Conservation Efforts
Protecting the planet and its inhabitants is crucial for our future, and artificial intelligence (AI) is playing a significant role in conservation efforts across Africa. These innovative AI systems are helping address complex problems on a large scale, from studying animal behavior in the Serengeti to identifying poachers and protecting species from extinction.
It’s important to ensure that diverse groups of people build the AI systems of the future, making it fair and equitable. This includes broadening the machine learning (ML) community and engaging wider audiences in solving important problems using AI.
Zindi, the largest community of African data scientists, is working to solve Africa’s most pressing issues through competitions. Our team collaborated with Zindi to identify a scientific challenge that could advance conservation efforts and increase involvement in AI. This led to a project focusing on turtle facial recognition.
Turtles play a crucial role in maintaining healthy ecosystems. By grazing on seagrass, they create habitats for numerous fish and crustaceans. Traditionally, turtles have been tracked using physical tags, but these can be unreliable. To address this, we launched the Turtle Recall ML challenge to develop turtle facial recognition as a reliable, non-invasive method for reidentifying turtles in the wild.
The challenge aimed to increase the reliability and speed of turtle reidentification, potentially replacing the use of physical tags altogether. We were able to use a dataset of labelled images of turtle faces, and the competition saw positive community engagement from AI enthusiasts across Africa, with significant technical innovation displayed by participants.
The high level of prediction accuracy achieved by participants is immediately useful for identifying turtles in the field, highlighting the real and immediate impact AI can have on wildlife conservation efforts.
We are thankful to Zindi for their partnership and to all those who contributed to the Turtle Recall challenge. With continued efforts, we hope to apply AI technologies to build a healthy, sustainable future for our planet.
For more information about the Turtle Recall challenge, visit Zindi’s blog at https://zindi.africa/ and learn about Zindi’s ongoing climate-positive challenges.