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One year of protecting jaguars with AI-based Systems in Yucatán, Mexico



The Tech4Nature Mexico initiative celebrates its first year, proving the value of using Huawei’s Cloud AI systems for more effective biodiversity conservation in the Dzilam Reserve in Yucatan, southeast Mexico. This project has accelerated Yucatan’s government's understanding of the environment and thus, the protection of the jaguar in the State, a continent-wide priority species for conservation.


Currently, the jaguar is in danger of extinction in Mexico, having lost more than 40% of its distribution in the country. Conservation experts estimate that there are around 4,000 to 5,000 jaguars in the wild in Mexico, more than half of which live on the Yucatan Peninsula, making it one of the primary regions for their conservation.


The monitoring of this species through AI-based systems accelerates effective strategies to make decisions focused on its protection. Monthly, the innovation agency C Minds, the Yucatan Government, and the Dzilam community goes to the field to collect data from a biodiversity monitoring system with camera traps and acoustic monitoring devices installed in the jungle and the wetlands of Dzilam.


The project involves many partners and stakeholders such as the IUCN, the Polytechnic University of Yucatan, C Minds’ AI for Climate initiative, Rainforest Connection, the local community of Dzilam, as well as the government authorities in Yucatan, and Huawei, the private company that provides the Cloud.


The AI-based models have allowed the automated analysis of more than 550,000 audio inputs and 30,000 images in the ModelArts AI Platform from Huawei Cloud and the Arbimon AI platform from Rainforest Connection to provide data for better government and community decision-making, allowing the generation of evidence in a short time, which would have been an almost impossible task without technology.


“We need to upload the data to a Big Data platform because it is a high volume of information. We need to process it at high speed and with artificial intelligence. Then start to understand the pictures and be able to detect the animals that interest us,” says Joaquin Saldaña, Director of Strategy and Marketing at Huawei Latin America.


During this first year, students and professors from the Polytechnic University of Yucatan, and Huawei's cloud experts with the support of biologists, have developed two pioneering algorithms with 93% accuracy to detect jaguars in the images captured by camera traps. Likewise, Rainforest Connection developed an algorithm to automatically identify 85 priority species from audio recordings. All of this was achieved together with the leadership and support of the Ministry of Sustainable Development of Yucatan (SDS) , C Minds, IUCN, and people from the Dzilam community.


Through the AI models developed and the supervision of experts, more than 119 species have been identified in the Reserve, including 5 individuals of jaguars, 88 birds, 22 mammals, 5 reptiles, and 4 amphibians, of which 34 species are on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. In turn, technology, hand in hand with people, has been a critical tool for more effective, scalable, and reliable conservation actions in the state.

Based on these findings, the alliance has launched two web platforms for visualizing, exploring, and interacting with data from acoustic and imagery biodiversity monitoring to catalyze collective action.


“We are setting the basis for a state-wide biodiversity monitoring platform with AI on the Huawei Cloud, with the jaguar as our umbrella species, because if we make sure to protect it, then we protect everything that surrounds them. What we are doing is a huge and pioneering step for decision-making for conservation and nature-based solutions”, said Regina Cervera, Projects Coordinator C Minds’ AI for Climate initiative.


"This AI-driven analysis has enabled the rapid generation of data to inform decision-making for the local community, the local conservation ecosystem, and government institutions," commented Sayda, head of Yucatan's Secretariat of Sustainable Development.


To promote the continuity of the project, knowledge is being transferred to local communities, which will allow them to continue strengthening their participation in environmental conservation projects through the use of technologies, which will facilitate obtaining economic benefits in later stages. In turn, the groundwork is being laid for future green revenue streams in the state.


"Our next goal is to use the data collected from the cloud and continue working with this system to apply the same technology in at least 30% of the Yucatan State Reserves", commented Mauricio Vila, Governor of Yucatan.


Juan Castillo, a community leader in the Dzilam de Bravo Reserve, highlights the importance of the jaguar in the community: “All this is jaguar land. Since I was a child, I liked knowing that it is part of us. Sometimes what I say makes people laugh: the day I die, I would like to be a jaguar. I wish that there is still a way to take care of it because if not, tomorrow we would only be seeing it in books.”


To learn more about this initiative visit https://www.forclimate.ai/tech4nature


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