Wildsense Tigers uses facial recognition to track tigers in the wild

Sadly, there are only around three thousand tigers left in the wild. Until now, biologists have found it hard to monitor their numbers, especially given the speed at which the animals are poached. They’ll spend months following them or setting up camera traps in the hope of snapping a pic.

But, as Fast Company reports, now PhD students from the University of Surrey have developed a new iPad app that should make researchers’ lives a lot easier. Called Wildsense Tigers, it’s designed to keep track of how many tigers there are worldwide. And because each tiger has an individual pattern of stripes, it’s based on facial recognition technology.

It can scan tourist photos uploaded to Flickr and Instagram as well as the photos from biologists’ camera traps. This should mean that eventually, there’ll be an online photo database of every tiger in the wild that can be updated continually so the population can be tracked in real time.

One of the developers, Aaron Mason, told Fast Company, ‘There’s enough data online through people’s photographs… It becomes easier to keep on top of things. Rather than doing a survey every few years, you could literally have a look at how many tigers there are in the world this hour, and what’s changed in the last day.’

They’ve already used the prototype with a small number of users/tigers, and now want to expand it worldwide. And anyone can join in: if you spot a tiger (as you probably will on your way home from work…), just download the app, take a photo, then use the app to draw a box around the tiger’s face and tag it with location data.

The researchers will then use this to finish their algorithm so that in time the app will recognise individual tigers. If only there was also an app to stop people poaching them.

Image via Fabiana Berssanetti’s Flickr.

Diane Shipley