September 27, 2022

Smart tech is helping to save China’s giant pandas

4 min read

Although relatively sparsely populated, pandas are not yet out of the woods – or bamboo forests.

The greatest threat to the wild panda population is habitat loss. Its dependence on bamboo for sustenance has made the species particularly vulnerable to climate change, and China’s rapid urban development in the last century Part of their historical range. And around 54% of its wild habitat Safe, these areas are still vulnerable to natural disasters such as forest fires.

Now, conservationists hope that smart tech can help secure Panda’s future.

The “Digital Panda System”, developed in a joint venture between the Sichuan Forest and Grassland Administration and the Chinese tech company Huawei to protect panda habitat, was deployed in February 2021 in the forests and grasslands of Sichuan Province. had gone. Quick reporting system helps detect wildfires. In difficult-to-reach areas, alert rangers and the fire department so they can intervene immediately, as well as monitor wildlife.

Meanwhile, another smart technology – facial recognition – can help identify individual pandas more accurately. To the human eye, their skin-covered faces all look alike, but computer algorithms are able to differentiate.

“Digital technology will play a greater role in biodiversity (and) conservation in the future,” says Xiao Jian, a solutions specialist at Huawei’s Sichuan office who oversees the development of the digital panda system.

A “digital panda system”

The system collects data from 596 cameras, 45 infrared cameras, drones and satellites, which it stores in the cloud. Conservationists and researchers use the data to monitor, track and study wildlife, as well as locate forest fire hotspots.

Zhao says that because cameras are used in remote areas where the power supply is low or not, the system runs on solar energy and uses microwave transmission, which does not require cables and is complex. More reliable in regions.

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According to Huawei, the system supports 140,000 forest rangers, grassland managers, conservationists and researchers in Sichuan. According to Huawei, in its first five months of operations, it detected 651 hotbeds of wildfires, a 71.6% reduction in wildfires compared to the same period last year.

Zhao says that despite its name, the digital panda system protects more than just pandas. The system covers the Sichuan section of the newly established Giant Panda National Park – approximately one area 10,500 square miles Which connects 67 reserves of three provinces. This park is home to China. 1,800 wild pandas – With more 8,000 species of animals and plantsIncluding endangered species such as the red panda and the golden-nosed monkey.
The new Giant Panda National Park is expected to benefit other endangered species, such as the golden-nosed monkey (pictured).

Xiao says that in the future, the digital panda system could be extended to parts of the national park located in Shanxi and Gansu provinces, creating more “success stories” for other endangered species.

Growing population

Although pandas are no longer endangered according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), their populations are still considered weak and their numbers in the wild have not yet returned to pre-1980 levels.

But prisoner breeding efforts can help increase the population. Chengdu Panda Base in Sichuan Province has been at the forefront of panda conservation and breeding since it opened in 1987 with only six sick and hungry pandas. The base is home to more than now. 200 pandasHo Rong, deputy director of the Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Research Base, says that by partnering with other zoos and reservoirs, the global captive population was 673 in October 2021.

This video shows the digital panda system catching a wild panda for the first time in August 2021. Credit: Sichuan Administration of Giant Panda National Park, Sichuan Provincial Bureau of Forestry and Grassland, and Huawei

Technology like IVF Efforts have been made to increase the number of pandas, while GPS has been used. Track and monitor Some captive pandas who have been left in the jungle.

Now, Ho Tech says, SmartTech offers “new tools and possibilities”, and can help conservationists bring more pandas back to their natural habitat.

“My colleagues are working to protect, rehabilitate and monitor their local residences,” she says. “We are also looking to recreate giant pandas.”

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Hou hopes that smart tech can help researchers solve a major challenge on a daily basis: identifying individual pandas.

“Even at the giant panda base, no crew member knows everyone,” she says.

Currently, microchips are being implanted in the panda’s neck for human identification, allowing researchers to detect important health information, such as immunizations. But the method is invasive, forcing the caregiver to approach the card reader and interfere with the panda’s day-to-day activities, says Howe.

Hou has worked with a team for five years to develop a facial recognition system for pandas. The algorithm was tested and improved using the OverK database. 6,400 photos taken with 218 pandas In captivity.
Conservationists hope that smart technology will provide a more accurate estimate of the wild panda population.
Each panda has a unique facial texture and hair pattern, says Pranjal Sorop. A study of panda facial recognition. “(We) are unable to recognize and remember the subtle features of the face, even in humans,” says Swarup. But for computers that can pick up small differences and convert them into numerical systems, it is much easier to identify individual pandas.
Facial recognition could also help researchers get a more accurate picture of the number of pandas in the wild, Soorup said. Currently, population surveys – conducted every decade since 1974 – are conducted on foot. Latest in 2014 4.36 million hectares of land were surveyed in three years, involving 2,000 people.

“These tools will definitely help us do this (protection) work better,” Ho said.

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