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Saving Rainforests by Listening

How a small NGO from California is using cloud AI to protect rainforest ecosystems around the world

The Costa Rican Rainforest: Delicate and Endangered

The Osa Peninsula rainforest is home to a vast array of animal and plant life. However, like many other rainforest ecosystems, illegal logging, poaching, and insufficient conservation efforts threaten its very existence. In fact, the world's rainforests could disappear in just 40 years if current trends continue.

Illegal logging accounts for 90% of all deforestation, which in turn destroys the habitats of flora and fauna and drives species to extinction. This fate awaits spider monkeys in the Osa Peninsula if we don't act now. As a keystone species that disperses the seeds of various flora, they are essential to the well-being of the rainforest ecosystem. But every year their numbers continue to decline.


Hearing Where the Problem Begins

For Osa conservationists, spider monkeys are notoriously difficult to find and monitor. Rainforest Connection (RFCx) has deployed Huawei's cloud AI to develop a model to detect the sounds of spider monkeys and chainsaws used for illegal logging. These solar-powered "Guardians" use upcycled Huawei phones to detect forest sounds. Running autonomously, each Guardian can cover an area of 3 km2 and run 24/7 for up to two years.

Conservation Meets the Power of AI

To maximize accuracy, animal translators labeled data into a cloud archive for AI specialists to train the AI model. Doing so required solutions to two major challenges: a lack of initial samples coupled with the changing sound events produced by spider monkeys. The team first reduced the detection window from one second to half a second. Then, they increased the frequency domain from 40 dimensions to 96 dimensions.

Conservationists now have ears in the trees to detect this elusive species and the illegal logging that threatens their existence.

  • 18nations

    are protecting natural ecosystems with Huawei technology (as of the end of 2020)

Because of this collaboration, because of the real need for these partnerships, we had collected 84 years' worth of audio data by the end of 2020, which will help greatly in ongoing efforts to protect natural ecosystems. Topher White,
CEO, Rainforest Connection

AI can help us understand animals better, including their language and emotional state, so that we can protect endangered animals more effectively. Chuxin Tan,
Animal translator, Huawei Cloud

I see there being a positive movement in the willingness of the state and the people of Osa Conservation to protect rainforest ecosystems using this technology. Juan Azofeito Bodilla,
Ranger, Osa Conservationist

I think this technology is really important to us. We want to know where the spider monkeys are and where they're distributed, so we can focus our conservation actions on protecting them. Ruthmery Pillco Huarcaya,
Botanist/Primatologist, Osa Conservationist

Beyond Costa Rica: A Global Mission

With the help of AI, conservationists are able to do their work from wherever they are. Through the advancement of tech, there is no longer a battle they have to fight alone. We hope to work with even more people and organizations, to help protect the biodiversity on our planet, to make it truly a world, and a home for all.