Conservators to study Indian wolf in Pune using AI and drone technology
This study has been undertaken by Grassland Trust in association with the forest department. Two foreign researchers will also be part of this study
Conservators working to restore the grassland ecosystem in Pune will now conduct a study to understand socio-ecological behaviours of Indian wolves in Saswad. It will be the first-ever study in India to get insight into the Indian wolf’s life cycle utilising artificial intelligence (AI) and drone technology, said officials on Sunday.
This study has been undertaken by Grassland Trust in association with the forest department. Two foreign researchers will also be part of this study. The first module of the study had been completed and duration of the study will be two years.
As per the forest department data, currently, over 45 wolves are residing in five-six wolf dens in the grasslands of Saswad. As the subspecies of grey wolves, these wolves are classified as the schedule I (most protected) species under the Wildlife Protection Act, of 1972. Known to be over a million years older than all other wolf species in the world, Indian Grey Wolves hold a unique place in evolutionary history and represent evolutionary significant units (ESUs). However, the declining population put them into an ‘endangered’ animal category.
Mihir Godbole, founder, Grasslands Trust said, “Social carnivores, including wolves, have captivated our attention as they live in complex societies and exhibit remarkable collective behaviours, such as coordinated hunting. Despite the high interest our fundamental quantitative understanding behaviour of social carnivores is significantly lacking because of the limitations in tracking, bio-logging, and observing social carnivores. Traditional methods of tracking using bio-loggers (GPS collars) have several drawbacks. High-resolution (1Hz) bio-loggers are expensive and have limited battery life. More importantly, deploying bio-loggers is a highly invasive and stress-inducing process for the animals.”
“We will attempt to bridge this gap in our knowledge by studying behaviours, movement patterns, and habitat structure of Indian wolves living in a human-dominated landscape in Maharashtra. We will us drone-based tracking method that overcome the limitations of bio-logging. The method is developed by the team of scientists led by Prof Iain Couzin at the Centre for Advanced Study of Collective Behaviour at the University of Konstanz, Germany and Max Planck institute of Animal Behaviour, added Godbole
This method uses state-of-the-art computer vision algorithms to automatically detect and track the location and body posture of free-roaming animals in a drone-based aerial videos. Along with the fine-grained 3D habitat models. This method is cost-effective, flexible, and non-invasive.
Adwait Deshpande from University of Konstanz who conceived the project is collecting pilot data on Indian wolves in adjoining areas of Pune.
Tushar Chavan, conservator (wildlife), Pune forest department said, “The department has permitted this study; however, we are awaiting the data of its first module.”