Bringing You the Daily Dispatch

A groundbreaking UK project is utilizing AI to monitor hedgehog populations.
Environment Science

A groundbreaking UK project is utilizing AI to monitor hedgehog populations.

A novel project is underway to utilize artificial intelligence in monitoring hedgehog populations for the first time. The goal is to gain insight on the remaining numbers in the UK and the reasons behind their decline.

Photos of the spiky animals foraging in city parks, personal gardens, forests, and agricultural land will be recorded by cameras and sorted by artificial intelligence that has been taught to distinguish between animals and people.

The pictures will be forwarded to individuals known as “spotters” who will identify images with hedgehogs and pass them on to analysts. The analysts will document the quantities and whereabouts.

The National Hedgehog Monitoring Programme (NHMP) is utilizing this approach to generate approximations of hedgehog numbers in various environments throughout the country. The goal is to track annual fluctuations and eventually calculate a national estimate of the UK’s hedgehog population.

The BHPS and PTES stated that this would provide valuable knowledge about the reasons behind the decrease in hedgehog populations, and allow conservationists to put practical measures in place to help restore their numbers.

The project, which spans over three years, has collaborated with Nottingham Trent University, ZSL’s London HogWatch, Durham University, and MammalWeb. The majority of funding for this project is provided by Natural England.

According to the NHMP coordinator, Dr. Henrietta Pringle, PTES is utilizing artificial intelligence for the first time in the conservation of hedgehogs, a development that is highly thrilling. While past research has made estimates of hedgehog populations, there has never been a comprehensive nationwide study until now.

“We know hedgehogs are struggling – especially in the countryside – but before we can put practical conservation measures in place we need to understand where they are and why they’re declining.

“This is the first study where populations are measured year after year in the same location, which will produce vital data and allow us to identify those at risk, which in time will hopefully help us to reverse the decline. The results will also allow us to see regional and habitat differences, and identify what factors impact them in different places, which will not only be fascinating but also incredibly useful for their long-term conservation.”

Bypass the advertisement for the newsletter.

Fay Vass, the chief executive of the BHPS, said: “Everyone loves hedgehogs, but we recognise that not everyone is in a position to help them in the wild. Becoming a ‘spotter’ for the National Hedgehog Monitoring Programme is a fantastic way for everyone to get involved. Now, those with mobility issues, who don’t have a garden or perhaps are away studying at university or college, can help from the comfort of home.

“We aim to make aiding hedgehogs a simple and readily available task, and we encourage individuals from all backgrounds to get involved.”

Source: theguardian.com