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Machine recognition helping to catch trap-shy predators

Manaaki Whenua scientists have been contributing to a national “Products to Projects” initiative, coordinated by Predator Free 2050 Limited, to help achieve the goal of eliminating rats, stoats and possums from New Zealand.

The initiative has been fast-tracking good ideas to help catch trap-shy animals, using ingenious methods that are expected to be in production and available to community groups within six to 36 months.

“The Products to Projects initiative aimed to change the predator control game so that we can completely remove target animals from large landscapes and then keep them out,” says Predator Free 2050 Limited CEO Abbie Reynolds.

“We have been able to partner with some very clever Kiwi designers and stimulate jobs and businesses through their development and production around New Zealand.”

At Manaaki Whenua, Al Glen has been working with the University of New England, Australia, to adapt software originally designed to identify dingoes and foxes, to recognise introduced predators. This requires loading thousands of images of target animals in New Zealand landscapes so that the software is capable of machine recognition, “learning” what it sees.

Camera traps are already an effective surveillance tool but generate vast numbers of images that require processing. This web-based software service will use AI to recognise target animals, saving time and making camera trapping affordable at a much larger scale. It will be available to community groups on the platform from March 2021.

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