The researchers from the Institute for Environmental Solutions (IES) have been testing new technologies for counting wild animals for more than two years. By combining traditional animal accounting with new technologies and data-based solutions, costs can be reduced, and objective research-based decision-making for sustainable wildlife management can be enabled.
Traditional wild animal counting is based on estimates from field-based animal counting campaigns in which standard methods such as animal footprint tracking in snow, animal counting at the feeders, counting of excrements during winter season and estimations from damages done by animals are used. These methods do not provide required precision on animal density within the territory of interest. Moreover, they are neither efficient, nor cost-effective.
Since 2019, IES’s researchers have been testing the potential of different technologies – drones, passive acoustic sensor networks (microphones), motion-activated camera traps and tracking with GPS transmitters to develop the method for wild animal counting in Latvia. Data acquired from these technologies provide a possibility to remotely assess wild animal populations – red deer, roe deer, elk and wild boar.
Watch the Latvia’s Regional Television news story (in Latvian) in which IES’s researchers and remote sensing experts Dr Dainis Jakovels and Jevgenijs Fiļipovs showcased research results and possibilities of new technologies.
New technology tests are still ongoing. IES’s researchers participated in European Geosciences Union’s (EGU) General Assembly 2021 with two presentations to present first results of the research.
With the first presentation researchers showcased drone technology test’s results and possibilities for wild animal detection. Read more about animal tracking with drones here.
During the second presentation IES’s researcher introduced the audience with the results of red deer (Cervus elaphus) behavioural studies and suitable habitat modelling. This part of the research was done by using animal tracking data from GPS transmitters. Read more about animal tracking by using GPS transmitters here.
Currently, the research on wildlife monitoring is continuing with data collection from camera traps and GPS transmitters. The main challenge in the study is the development of automated data collection and processing. It is particularly important for reduction of invested human hours and other resources in wildlife monitoring. In the last research season, IES will test the developed data collection, processing and automation approaches to optimize current wildlife monitoring methods.
The research is a part of the project “ICT-based wild animal census approach for sustainable wildlife management” (No. 184.108.40.206/18/A/146) is part of European Regional Development Fund, 1.1.1 "Improve research and innovation capacity and the ability of Latvian research institutions to attract external funding, by investing in human capital and infrastructure" 220.127.116.11. measure “Support for applied research”.
Find more about this project here.