Australia is known for having some of the most unique and diverse animals in the world, but this is also a disadvantage as it has become a hotspot for the illegal wildlife trade.
According to a report by Cosmos Magazine, current methods for finding wildlife that has been unlawfully smuggled include the use of biosecurity dogs, X-ray scans and physical border controls.
But Australian scientists have recently learned that 3D X-ray technology and artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms can also be used to detect wildlife being trafficked and hidden in luggage or cargo.
(Photo: MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP via Getty Images)
TOPSHOT — This photo taken on Sept. 14, 2020 shows warden Tran Van Truong holding a pangolin in his enclosure at Save Vietnam’s Wildlife, a group running a pangolin conservation program in Cuc Phuong National Park in northern Ninh Binh province.
For three categories of wildlife: lizards, birds and fish, the team developed a 3D scanned “reference library” that they used to train artificial intelligence algorithms to recognize the animals.
The AI identified animals 82% of the time with a false hit rate of just 1.6%.
The study, just published in the journal Frontiers in Conservation Science Human-Wildlife Interactions, is the first to show how 3D X-ray CT scanning technology can be used to protect wildlife.
Stopping wildlife imports into Australia protects the country’s distinctive natural environment from foreign pests and diseases, according to Sam Hush. He claims that taking animals from the wild poses risks to the conservation of species, habitats, local populations and ecosystems.
Hush is Deputy Assistant Secretary for Environmental Compliance at the Department for Climate Change, Energy, Environment and Water (DCCEEW).
3D X-ray CT Tech
The research team used 3D X-ray CT technology with real-time tomography (RTT) during the study. This technology creates a sequence of image cross-sections through an object, in this case an animal, using X-rays.
These images can then be modified to create a 360-degree representation of the object, according to Cosmos Magazine.
An explosives detection screening system currently in use at international crossings, airports and mail freight facilities around the world has been used to scan dead animals.
The collection contained 294 scans of animals from 13 different species in different situations, from an animal alone to more complicated and realistic human trafficking scenarios. These scans were then used to train AI systems to identify the animals.
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Protecting Australia’s Biosecurity
according to dr Chris Locke, Assistant Secretary of Biosecurity and Compliance at DAFF, said the illegal wildlife trade is a serious biosecurity issue in Australia as it can introduce pests and diseases that affect the environment, human and animal health could.
He claims their study demonstrates the limitless potential of the 3D X-ray algorithm for preventing the exotic wildlife trade and protecting Australian agriculture and its distinctive natural environment from alien diseases and pests.
“This innovative technology is an invaluable complementary platform to our existing biosecurity and wildlife detection tools at Australia’s international borders with potential global applications in the future,” Locke said in a statement.
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Written by Joaquin Victor Tacla
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