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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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New 'DoggyLottery' to raise funds for rescue centres

News Story 1
 A new 'DoggyLottery' to raise funds for dog rescue centres in the UK will launch on Saturday (4 July). Every four weeks, five different rescue centres will be connected to the lottery, providing much-needed funds - particularly during COVID-19 - and providing vital online exposure.

A weekly game costs £1.50 and entrants will have the chance of being one of 20 guaranteed winners. A massive 60 per cent of the raised funds will go towards the dog rescue centres, more than double that donated by leading lottery companies to charitable causes.

To find out more and play the lottery, visit www.doggylottery.co.uk  

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News Shorts
International Cat Care appoints new head of veterinary division

International Cat Care (ICC) has announced the appointment of Nathalie Dowgray as head of the charity's veterinary division.

Nathalie, who is an RCVS advanced practitioner in feline medicine, will lead the International Society of Feline Medicine (ISFM) and a play key role in advancing knowledge and research in feline medicine.

Claire Bessant, iCatCare's chief executive said: "We're absolutely delighted to be welcoming Nathalie to the charity. She brings a depth and breadth of feline expertise and understanding which fits perfectly with the charity's work and development, and her enthusiasm for cats is infectious."