10 Aug 2023
Elephants are majestic creatures that play a crucial role in the ecosystems where they reside. However, their interactions with local communities can sometimes lead to conflict. Elephants often move in secondary forests near communities, which can lead to crop raids due to the convenient abundance of food.
Save Vietnam’s Wildlife has proposed an innovative solution to this problem through their project “Safeguarding Giants: An AI-Powered Initiative for Elephants.” The project aims to reduce human-elephant conflicts by utilizing a multifaceted approach which involves early warning systems consisting of thermal drone surveys, AI cameras, and citizen science. By gathering the knowledge of local farming communities that have experienced the brunt of human-elephant conflicts (HEC), the project aims to map out the specific points where elephants emerge from the forests adjacent to communities and install AI cameras at these emergence points. When the camera detects an elephant passing by, it will send an alert to the smartphone of all stakeholders in the area as an early warning system. Local people will be trained in HEC mitigation strategies from experts and learn how to coexist with elephants in their communities through ecotourism income generation in order to take effective and ethical action.
The project involves more than just implementing effective early warning systems. It goes a step further by assembling crucial data regarding elephant populations and behaviors, a resource that will significantly contribute to conservation initiatives and the process of making informed future conservation decisions. The fusion of state-of-the-art technology and active community engagement is the project's cornerstone, seeking to establish a solution that allows elephants and local communities to sustainably coexist. The ultimate objective revolves around lessening income loss from elephant crop raids while simultaneously fostering the growth of ecotourism. This dual-pronged approach works towards securing the well-being and success of both human and elephant populations in a potentially scalable pilot study.
Header: Image taken during a night survey of the team; this individual has unequal tusk one tusk up one tusk down. © Russell J Gray.