A teen named Anika Puri has invented a new way to catch elephant poachers.
“I was quite taken aback,” the 17-year-old Chappaqua, New York student told Smithsonian Magazine. “Because I always thought, ‘well, poaching is illegal, how come it really is still such a big issue?’”
Learning more about elephant poachers
Puri and her family visited India a few years ago and saw ivory lined up at a Bombay market. The ivory trade has been illegal for decades in India.
After some research, Puri realized African elephants are still being hunted and that the “forest elephant population had declined by about 62 percent between 2002 and 2011.” Those numbers continue to drop today.
As a wildlife lover who is gifted in science and technology, Puri invented a system to help catch poachers.
According to Smithsonian: “Drones are currently used to detect and capture images of poachers, and they aren’t that accurate, the teenager explains. But after watching videos of elephants and humans, she saw how the two differed vastly in the way they move—their speed, their turning patterns and other motions.”
Tracking and stopping elephant poachers
Once she saw the difference in movements between humans and elephants, she realized she could build a piece of technology to track their movements.
As a result, she spent 2 years creating ElSa (short for “elephant savior”). Still in the prototype stage, the machine-learning driven device “analyzes movement patterns in thermal infrared videos of humans and elephants.”
Better yet, Puri says the accuracy is 4 times that of other tools. Her tool also costs a mere $250 to make whereas others run into the thousands of dollars due to their use of high-resolution cameras.
However: “ElSa uses a $250 FLIR ONE Pro thermal camera with 206×156 pixel resolution that plugs into an off-the-shelf iPhone 6. The camera and iPhone are then attached to a drone, and the system produces real-time inferences as it flies over parks as to whether objects below are human or elephant.” – WTF fun facts