South sudan satellite tasking (C) South Sudan, Pléiades © CNES (2024) Distribution AIRBUS DS_770x330

We constantly read sad news stories about animal species that face extinction, and rapidly declining populations. Bolstering local conservation efforts and offering support is imperative where possible. Celebrating those efforts encourages us to further preserve the world around us for future generations to enjoy the world we love. The latest joint initiative spotlights successful conservation and how AI and satellite technology are used today.

“We are witnessing a remarkable expansion in the utilization of satellite imagery within conservation. The integration of artificial intelligence has rapidly evolved into a standard analytical tool. By adopting a full ecosystem approach and empowering local partners through satellite data, training and technical support, we can achieve impactful conservation at a wide scale,” says Sophie Maxwell, Executive Director of Connected Conservation Foundation (CCF).

“The use of 50 cm and 30 cm satellite imagery offers unprecedented detail of ecosystem health, connectivity and the identification of harmful human activities. Through our award program, we are excited to see grantees sharing methodologies and best practices in leveraging machine learning and satellite imagery for successful conservation applications.”

Something to Celebrate in Conservation

The winners have been announced for the Satellite for Biodiversity Award, Round Two — a joint initiative by the Connected Conservation Foundation (CCF) and the Airbus Foundation. The award celebrates the people and projects that leverage the latest technology to protect endangered species.

To qualify, individuals and non-profit organizations were invited to submit proposals that leverage very high-resolution satellite data to monitor and safeguard endangered species and their habitats.

The team will use their discoveries to develop strategies that promote coexistence between the expanding human population and wildlife (C) Fauna & Flora_770x330

The Four Winning Projects

Fauna & Flora – South Sudan 

The team in South Sudan is protecting chimpanzees, giant ground pangolins and African forest elephants. They work in the wild and untouched terrain of Bangangai, Bire Kpatuo and Mbarizunga reserves.

Utilizing satellite imagery and AI to conduct landscape-level assessments, they can assess, identify and pinpoint problems and solutions.

The technology is used to:

  • Map land use
  • ID core forest patches
  • Pinpoint deforestation drivers
  • Map out connectivity pathways 

Conservación Amazonica  – Peru

Paddington Bear may have hailed from “darkest Peru”, but it’s the real-life Andean bear that requires our attention today. The team at Conservacion Amazonica conserves and protects more than five million hectares of the Amazon Andes in the interests of the Andean Bear, and they do it, not with marmalade sandwiches, but with science and technology.

They use:

  • Acoustic monitoring
  • Camera traps
  • Environmental DNA analysis
  • Satellite technology
  • Drones

Real-time monitoring systems allow the team to investigate climate change and make informed decisions going forward. An innovative approach that drives effective conservation.

Chulalongkorn University and Ethiopian Biodiversity Institute – Ethiopia

Over to the Bale Mountains National Park, 400 km southeast of Addis Ababa, a plateau marked by glacial lakes and volcanic peaks. Here is the setting for the Ethiopian wolf, and over half the world’s population.

Sadly, only 336 remain.

The project aims to safeguard the habitat of this critically endangered species and the team from Chulalongkorn University in Thailand use a combination of:

  • Satellite imagery
  • Ground data
  • Remote sensing
  • Geographic information systems

Zoological Society of London – Nepal

Chitwan is home to almost all of Nepal’s remaining rhino population. Nepal’s Chitwan-Parsa Complex. Bogus medical claims have directly influenced the poaching of the greater one-horned rhino, despite heavy bans on trade by the Nepali and Indian governments. The grassy lowlands there are good for grazing which unfortunately attracts more people.

This initiative will harness satellite data to refine grassland management strategies tailored to the conservation of the critically endangered greater one-horned rhinoceros.

Conserve, Build, Secure

Conservation requires long-term vision. Teams on the ground today provide time-critical resources and protected areas and the wildlife they harbor are vital for future generations to come. Initiatives such as the Satellite for Biodiversity Award and the value of unlocking the power of artificial intelligence and satellite imagery will help to sustain the work, build local communities and secure that future.