Facial recognition used to identify and catalogue animals

Salmon are just the latest entry in a growing cornucopia of animal faces loaded into databases. For some animals, the biometric data gathered from them is being used to aid in conservation efforts. For others, the resulting AI could help ward off poachers. While partly creepy and partly very cute, monitoring of these animals can both help protect their populations and ensure safe, traceable livestock for developing communities…

U.K. researchers are using online resources like Flickr and Instagram to help build and strengthen a database that will eventually help track global tiger populations in real time. Once collected, the photos are analyzed by everyday people in a free app called Wildsense… The mighty lion is being surveilled too. Conservationists and wildlife teachers are using facial recognition to keep tabs on a database of over 1,000 lions… Wildlife experts are tracking elephants to protect them from encroaching poachers. Using Google’s Cloud AutoML Vision machine learning software, the technology will uniquely identify elephants in the wild. According to the Evening Standard, the tech will even send out an alert if it detects poachers in the same frame.

The story of whale facial tracking is one of crowdsourcing success. After struggling to distinguish specific whales from one another on his own, marine biologist Christian Khan uploaded the photos to data-competition site Kaggle and, within four months, data-science company Deepsense was able to accurately detect individual whale faces with 87% accuracy. Since then, detection rates have steadily improved and are helping conservationists track and monitor the struggling aquatic giant.

U.S. researchers are trying to protect “the world’s most endangered animal” with LemurFaceID, which is able to accurately differentiate between two lemur faces with 97% accuracy. But “In the livestock surveillance arms race China is definitely leading the charge,” the article notes, citing e-commerce giant JD.com and its use of facial recognition to monitor herds of pigs to detect their age, weight, and diet.

And one Chinese company even offers a blockchain-based chicken tracking system (codenamed “GoGo Chicken”) with an app that can link a grocery store chicken to “its birthplace, what food it ate and how many steps it walked during its life.”

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