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New project trials drones to monitor giraffe populations in Cameroon
Modern technologies can be used to more accurately measure endangered species populations and guide conservation action.

Collaboration to bolster wildlife monitoring strategies

A joint team from the University of Bristol and the Bristol Zoological Society (BZS) are working to develop a new approach to wildlife monitoring and conservation, using machine-learning and drone technology.

In December of last year, a joint team flew to Bénoué National Park in Cameroon, to trial the use of drones and sensor technologies to monitor the critically endangered Kordofan giraffe. The area is approximately 1,600km2 and much of it is practically inaccessible on foot, presenting a increased challenge for wildlife monitoring.

“There has been a significant and drastic decline recently of larger mammals in the park and it is vital that accurate measurements of populations can be established to guide our conservation actions,” said Dr Gráinne McCabe, head of field conservation and science at Bristol Zoological Society.

The team approached Dr Matt Watson from the University of Bristol’s School of Earth Sciences, and Dr Tom Richardson, senior lecturer in flight mechanics and member of the Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL), for assistance in devising the best strategy for airborne wildlife monitoring.

Dr Richardson said: “It is likely that we will need more than one type of drone, and several different sensors to allow us to operate 24 hours a day and throughout the year. Modern multispectral cameras combined with machine learning and high-performance vehicles will need to be fully automated to cover an area of this size. Combine that with remote, constrained field operations and we have an interesting set of engineering problems to tackle.”

Teams from across these sectors are now working to create a large-scale proposal to develop the technologies necessary for tackling this challenge. They plan to return to Cameroon in early 2021.

Dr Watson added: “A machine learning based system that we develop for the Kordofan giraffe will be applicable to a range of large mammals. Combine that with low-cost aircraft systems capable of automated deployment without the need for large open spaces to launch and land, and we will be able to make a real difference to conservation projects worldwide.”

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Celebrity chefs urge public to get baking to support Cats Protection fundraiser

News Story 1
 In support of Cats Protection's Pawsome Afternoon Tea fundraiser, Masterchef winner Tim Anderson and Great British Bake Off star Kim-Joy have shared biscuit recipes to help keen bakers raise money for needy cats across April.

The celebrity chefs are both cat owners and have said that they hope this fundraiser will help to raise awareness of cats in need and the importance of adopting a cat, rather than buying one.

This is the fourth year Cats Protection has run its Pawsome Afternoon Tea campaign, which encourages people to hold tea parties, bake sales and fundraising events to help raise money for the charity.

To view the recipes and other fundraising resources please visit the Cats Protection website. 

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News Shorts
BEVA offering free membership to vet students

The British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) is offering free membership to veterinary students. As part of a new initiative with the aim of encouraging more veterinary professionals into equine practice.

According to BEVA, less than one in ten veterinary students choose to work in equine practice. The association hopes that this initiative will provide insight into the field and the benefits of a career in equine medicine.

Benefits of membership include:
▪ access to a network of nearly 3,000 members
▪ special student rates to attend BEVA Congress
▪ online access to BEVA's Equine Veterinary Education (EVE) journal
▪ free access to the association's online learning platform
▪ free access to BEVA's practical veterinary apps
▪ exclusive discounts on a range of things from cinema tickets to grocery shopping.

BEVA will be releasing a series of short videos over the next few months from BEVA Council members, explaining what inspired them to work in equine practice.

Image (c) BEVA.