AI to track hedgehog population in UK’s flagship project | Animals

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Artificial intelligence will be used for the first time to track hedgehog populations as part of a major project to understand how many of them are left in the UK and why they have suffered declines. Is.

Images of the spiny mammals roaming around urban parks, private gardens, woodlands and fields will be captured by cameras and filtered by AI trained to differentiate between wildlife and humans.

These images would then be sent to human “spotters” who would pick out those featuring hedgehogs and send them to analysts, who would record numbers and locations.

Using this method, the National Hedgehog Monitoring Program (NHMP) hopes to be able to estimate the population of hedgehogs in different habitats across the country, showing how it has changed from year to year. How are the hedgehog population changing, and – over time – giving UK national estimates.

The British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) and the People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) said it would provide important insight into the factors driving hedgehog population declines, and enable conservationists to They will be able to implement practical conservation measures to reverse the decline.

The three-year project is in partnership with Nottingham Trent University, ZSL’s London Hogwatch, Durham University and MammalWeb, and is largely funded by Natural England.

Dr Henrietta Pringle, NHMP co-ordinator at PTES, said: “For the first time in the history of hedgehog conservation we are using AI to open up new opportunities, which is very exciting. Previous studies have estimated hedgehog populations. There is, but so far there has never been a rigorous survey of them at the national level.

“We know hedgehogs are struggling – particularly in rural areas – but before we can take practical conservation measures we need to understand where they are and why they are declining.

“This is the first study where the population is measured at the same location year after year, which will generate important data and allow us to identify those at risk, which will hopefully reverse the decline over time. The results will also allow us to look at regional and habitat differences and identify factors influencing them in different places, which is not only fascinating but also critical for their long-term conservation. Will be useful to some extent.

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BHPS chief executive Faye Wass said: “Everyone loves hedgehogs, but we recognize that not everyone is in a position to help them in the wild. For the National Hedgehog Monitoring Programme’ Becoming a ‘Spotter’ is a fantastic way for everyone to get involved. Now, people with mobility issues, who don’t have a garden or maybe studying at university or college, can help from the comfort of their own home. can.

“Helping hedgehogs has never been easier or more accessible, so we really hope people from all walks of life will get involved.”

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