犀牛腳印就像人類指紋般獨特 科學家研發新技術打擊盜獵

環境資訊中心外電;姜唯 翻譯;林大利 審校;稿源:ENS

美國杜克大學(Duke University)開發出一款可以讀取和分析黑犀牛(Black rhinoceros,學名:Diceros bicornis)腳印的互動軟體,能用來監視瀕危動物的野外活動,阻絕盜獵者下手機會。

這套「」(Footprint Identification Technique, FIT)軟體可在美國分析軟體公司SAS的JMP統計軟體上運作,使用高階演算法分析100多頭犀牛腳印的特徵測量值。

納米比亞黑犀牛。照片來源: (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

FIT可避免人與犀牛接觸  保護雙方免於病毒感染





犀牛腳印獨特,可透過演算法個別分析追蹤。照片來源: (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

納米比亞2000頭黑犀牛  每年約有50頭遭盜獵


納米比亞埃托沙國家公園(Etosha National Park)的工作人員解釋,納米比亞的黑犀牛是獨一無二的,即使在惡劣的沙漠景觀中也能繁殖。牠們已經進化成可以在沒有水的情況下存活數天。在長期乾旱時,牠們所食用的植物會產生有毒化學物質,而黑犀牛對此竟也產生抵抗力。納米比亞黑犀牛的出沒範圍也比其他黑犀牛物種大得多。


納米比亞埃托沙國家公園一頭黑犀牛。照片來源: (CC BY-ND 2.0)



FIT能估算區域內犀牛數量  節省巡邏車資源





黑犀牛(Black rhinoceros)

黑犀牛是犀科黑犀屬的唯一一種,原生於非洲肯亞、坦尚尼亞、喀麥隆、南非、納米比亞和辛巴威,最重可達1820公斤。黑犀牛目前包括4個亞種,被國際自然保護聯盟(IUCN)列爲「極危」(Critically Endangered)。 黑犀牛在20世紀曾是所有犀牛中數量最多的一種,但由於辛巴威盜獵嚴重,在20世紀後半葉,黑犀的數量急遽下降,從7萬頭下降到1981年的1萬到1萬5000頭。1990年左右數量又降到2500頭以下。根據2003年資料顯示,黑犀牛的數量已有回升,約3610頭。黑犀牛減少的原因主要是盜獵和棲息地破壞。 資料來源: Software Foils Poachers With Rare Rhinos’ Footprints DURHAM, North Carolina, September 14, 2020 (ENS)

Interactive software that reads and analyzes footprints left by black rhinoceroses can be used to monitor the movements of the critically endangered animals in the wild, giving conservationists a new way to keep watch on the species and help keep them safe from poachers, according to a new Duke University-led study.

The software called the Footprint Identification Technique, or FIT, runs on JMP software from SAS Institute. JMP is a suite of computer programs for statistical analysis developed by the JMP business unit of the SAS Institute, an American multinational developer of analytics software based in Cary, North Carolina.

The software uses advanced algorithms to analyze more than 100 measurements of a rhino’s footprint.

Because each rhino’s footprint is as distinctive as a human fingerprint, the analyzed images can be archived electronically in a global database of previously collected footprint images for matching.

“If you find a match, you can identify the individual animal who left the mark and, by plotting the locations of all the other places that mark has been seen, track its movements without disturbing it or coming into close enough contact with it for there to be a risk of animal-to-human viral transmissions,” said Zoe Jewell, adjunct associate professor at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment.

Jewell is also a principal research associate at the JMP Division of the SAS Institute. She co-led the study and is co-creator of the Footprint Identification Technique.

“It’s a cost-effective approach that not only protects the health of the rhino and the human but also brings a centuries-old tracking skill into the 21st Century,” she said.

Jewell and her colleagues are now working with Namibia’s Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism to train wildlife conservationists, land managers, local guides and anti-poaching agents how to use FIT.

The scientists published their peer-reviewed study describing the technology’s effectiveness for monitoring the endangered rhinos on August 14 in the open-access journal “PeerJ.”

Namibia is home to an estimated 2,000 black rhinos or about 90 percent of the species’ total population worldwide. Though legally owned by the government, the animals are dispersed geographically on private lands across the country.

The black rhinos of Namibia are unique, thriving even in a harsh, desert-like landscape, explain staff members at Namibia’s Etosha National Park. They have evolved to survive without water for several days and have even developed a resistance to the toxic chemicals in the plants that they depend on for survival during long droughts. They also have much bigger ranges than other species of black rhino.

Stepped up government policing in recent years has slowed the rate of loss due to poaching, but between 30 and 50 rhinos are still slain each year for their horns.

Rhino horns, made of keratin like human hair and fingernails, have no medicinal powers but they can sell for more than US$60,000 a kilogram on the Asian black market, where they are used in traditional medicine or displayed as a symbol of wealth and success.

“You essentially have these animals with horns worth $100,000 or more that disappear from sight into the Namibian backcountry, making them an almost irresistible target for poachers. Authorities often don’t know a missing rhino has been poached until they find its bones or carcass,” said Jewell.

FIT allows the animals to be monitored three different ways, allowing scientists, managers, guides or anti-poaching patrols to use the software as best meets their individual needs and constraints, she said.

In the simplest option, the heel pattern on a digital image of the footprint is compared to images already in the FIT database to search for a match. This use is well-suited to situations where a random footprint is found in the wild.

The FIT software can also do a survey of footprints throughout the protected area and take measurements from each print to estimate the number of rhinos in that area. This can be useful information for calculating resource needs, the number of patrol vehicles, for instance, to monitor the animals effectively.

In the most advanced option, each individual rhino can be tracked and matched to its unique footprint using both FIT and heel-patterns. This creates an interactive library that anti-poaching patrols can use to search for animals at the highest risk, including those known to frequent areas under threat from poachers or those whose footprints haven’t been showing up in recent years.

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