Rainforest Guardians: Saving Rainforests by Listening
How a small NGO from California is using cloud AI to protect rainforest ecosystems in 10 countries 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.
rainforests protected by cloud AI
of rainforest will be covered
Beyond Costa Rica: A Global Mission
Many partners are involved in the Osa conservation drive, which currently protects over 2,500 km2 of land. The AI model for animal detection is helping biologists and rangers on the ground detect spider monkeys and illegal logging events, and identify other areas that require monitoring.
By July 2020，Guardians have been deployed in more than 11 countries across 5 continents，protecting over 3,300 km2 of rainforests. Moving forward, Guardians will be applied to other conservation programs. Maybe one day the fight to save our rainforests will end. But for now, it continues.