Identify wildlife threats with cutting-edge AI technology.

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AI technology and social media are being used to detect threats to wildlife, specifically bats, around the world. The University of Sussex led a study that identified new countries participating in bat exploitation. By utilizing online data and AI technology, researchers were able to compile a comprehensive global database of bat exploitation records. The study emphasizes the importance of understanding and mitigating threats to bats, highlighting their critical role in ecosystems. Integrating social media and online platform contributions into future conservation strategies can offer a more holistic view of wildlife threats.

Wildlife threats can be identified using AI technology

A groundbreaking study led by the University of Sussex reveals how artificial intelligence (AI) and social media are becoming invaluable tools in detecting threats to wildlife around the world. The research team employed AI to sift through online data from various platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Bing, to unveil the global scope of hunting and trade threats facing bats. The study sheds light on the power of social media and online news, contributed by both journalists and the public. These platforms enhance our comprehension of wildlife threats on a global scale, thereby steering conservation efforts in new directions.

The Sussex researchers pinpointed 22 countries previously unrecognized by conventional academic studies as participants in bat exploitation for hunting and trade. Notably, countries like Bahrain, Spain, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, and Singapore were identified, with Singapore having the highest number of new records. By developing an automated system, the team was able to execute large-scale searches across several platforms efficiently. AI technology played a crucial role in filtering through tens of thousands of results to isolate pertinent data, compiling a comprehensive global database of “bat exploitation records” from observed or anecdotal evidence.

“Using data sources like this provides a low-cost way to help us understand threats to wildlife globally,” said lead author Bronwen Hunter, a PhD student in conservation and data science at Sussex. Study senior author Fiona Mathews, a professor of environmental biology at Sussex, expressed concern over bat hunting and trade, especially during the Covid pandemic, and the importance of identifying exploitation hotspots. The study emphasizes the urgency of understanding and mitigating threats to bats, as they play critical roles in ecosystems as pollinators, seed dispersers, and pest controllers.

The experts advocate for the integration of social media and online platform contributions into future conservation strategies, offering a more holistic view of bat exploitation and other wildlife threats. The study is published in the journal Conservation Biology.

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