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6 Ways Technology Helps Save Endangered Animals

Richard Clayton Oct 17, 2019
We live in a world built on man’s curiosity. From learning how to make a fire to pioneering the Industrial Revolution, going to the Moon, and robots, man’s sense of discovery and tendency for innovation has sparked a process of fast-paced technological advancement that lives on in the present.
Technology offers seamless possibilities and opportunities to go beyond human capacity and understanding. However, that is only one side of the coin. For all the convenience of machine-assisted-everything, it comes at the expense of a declining environment.
Carbon emissions, urbanization, and other hallmarks of industrialization all contribute to the destruction of habitat for certain species. Along with illegal animal poaching and thriving underground markets, they disrupt ecological balance and endanger species.
With that being said, is it still possible to reconcile the relationship between nature and technology? Despite the effects on the environment, innovators have developed substantial technology for protecting endangered species.

GPS tracking

Although its initial purpose was for a mobile experience of navigating the globe, wildlife preservation groups utilize Google Earth as a monitoring tool.

Through its satellite imagery, Google Earth offers a real-time view of the Earth. Groups can then check on the status of a habitat and identify and respond to immediate threats.

The ‘SMART collar’ is another tracking technology innovation of Terrie Williams, Christopher Wilmers, and Gabriel Elkaim. With GPS, these collars determine the proximity of animals to humans. Additionally, it logs animal behavior like hunting habits or socialization.  

It provides a safe way to observe the animal in its habitat and serves as an indicator for any threats or problems.

Kenya observes the same tracking technology with elephants, except the collars are fitted with SIM cards that send out text alerts to the local community.

Sound Recording

One of the most distinctive features of an animal is the sound that they make.

Warblr, released in 2015, is a “birdsong” app that identifies types of birds based on their sound. It can distinguish different species of birds even when exposed to simultaneous input (ie, a rainforest setting).
The process, explained by creator Dan Stowell, is based on machine learning, a type of AI in which software adapts to large amounts of data (bird recordings) so that it can, “perform a certain way without being specifically programmed to.”
A similar project in 2012 explored the potential of sound recording for birds as a means of monitoring their habitat and behavior, and how this principle may work with other species as well.

Remote-controlled sampling

Collecting samples is fundamental to studying any natural science.

Some specimen extraction practices invade and directly harm the animals and their habitat.

To avoid this, researchers started using drones and cameras to obtain samples and get up-close information without disturbing the ecosystem.

Biotechnology

A branch of technology specialized for the fauna and flora - biotechnology has developed some solutions to the biodiversity crisis.

Preventive Technology

If a family can baby-proof a house, technology can also provide the same protective measures for animals.

Marine life is vulnerable to the dangers of the fishing industry. Cetaceans such as dolphins and porpoise are prone to entanglement in fishing nets. The pinger prevents these incidents. Pingers, which are attached to fishing nets, emit a high-frequency sound to drive the sonically-sensitive cetaceans away.

Similarly, magnetically-charged fishing hooks prevent sharks from being caught on fishing lines. Sharks are sensitive to underwater electric fields, which is why they will not engage a magnetically-charged fishing hook.

For surface-dwellers, beehive fences prevent damage to crops and property without injuring livestock or wild animals. 

Artificial Apiary

As pollinators, bees have a vital role in the ecosystem and agriculture. Because of this, the dwindling number of bees are cause for environmental alarm.
The Artificial Apiary is both a design and scientific venture of Neri Oxman with her group, Mediated Matter. It features an enclosure of beehives in a room with a regulated environment. The temperature mimics the heat of springtime, which keeps bees actively producing their honey.

All species play a role in the circle of life, no matter how big or small.

Biodiversity loss affects the delicate balance of the environment. This brings consequences not just for the species that go extinct, but for the rest of the planet as well.

Biodiversity loss is only one facet of the environmental crisis we face today. Hopefully, these efforts will gain momentum and shift the focus to more sustainable technology.