Eastern Africa News Network

Africa seems scared of deploying artificial intelligence in forestry and wildlife conservation

Conservation entities in Africa know exactly what they want. And it is not adopting new technology, certainly not Artificial Intelligence.

African countries are said to be still lagging behind in adopting artificial intelligence in Forestry and Wildlife Conservation Programs and that once the continent grasps the AI concept a number of problems facing the sector will be solved.

That was revealed during a presentation on the Use of Applications and Artificial intelligence in Forestry and Wildlife at the 24th Session of the African Forestry and Wildlife Commission in Arusha.

During her presentation, Bernadette Natukwasa a forestry student from Makerere University in Uganda pointed out that so far no figures have been developed showing the level of technology intervention in Africa wildlife and Forest due to lack of studies on technology use in the two sectors.

She mentioned a few areas where Artificial Intelligence is being applied in the conservation field including China where AI is used to predict the activities and output from their forests.

“Kenya uses cameras to conserve animals; the United States applies AI for forest fire analysis and prediction, data collection and wildlife stock taking; Canada uses AI for precision forest management and Uganda is initiating use of drones to protect country boundaries, manage security in national parks and forests,” Bernadette revealed.

In 2020, Tanzania, through the Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology (NM-AIST) of Arusha, tried to install bush cameras along the Kwakuchinja Wildlife Corridor linking Tarangire and Lake Manyara National Park, but the project has since stalled.

However the use of motion sensing cameras is taking effect in the Nyerere-Udzungwa wildlife corridor of Morogoro.

The scholar added that it was really absurd for countries to neglect technology in their conservation sectors and compared it to an existing gold mine that is left untouched regardless of its existence at the surface.

“Therefore I encourage us all to embrace technology and integrate it in the forestry and technology space,” she said.

She advises the writing and usage of special applications in conservation, explaining that these are software designed to handle specific tasks for users.

“Applications in the wildlife and forestry sector may include; Plant and animal identification; Forest path or navigation; Plant and animal extension service; Data entry and analysis; Wildlife and plant education as well as Wildlife and animal game apps,” Bernadette listed.

The scholar assured that dedicated applications help to reduce costs that may be incurred when all the forest work is executed manually.

They also enhance communication, increase technology literacy, and boost marketing.

Technology was also found to increase youth involvement through the innovation window as they think of applications to build in order to increase sustainable and efficient environment utilization.

“AI systems that monitor temperature patterns are developed which can predict and notify practitioners to take necessary preventive measures in pest control programs and forest inventory for provision of a survey of the location, composition, and distribution of the forest resource and their relative amounts over a given area.”