Birds and Animals

Foundation “Institute for Environmental Solutions”, SIA “Forest Owners’ Consulting Centre”, Latvian State Forest Research Institute "Silava"

ICT-based wild animal census approach for sustainable wildlife management No. 1.1.1.1/18/A/146

Foundation “Institute for Environmental Solutions”, SIA “Forest Owners’ Consulting Centre”, Latvian State Forest Research Institute "Silava" with support from European Regional Development Fund, develop novel ICT-based (data-driven) wild animal (ungulate) census methodology to support decision making on sustainable wildlife management and conflict resolution among landowners, hunters and society.

Wild ungulates are a valuable natural resource with annual contribution of above €394 million to the EU economy through game meat production. Additionally, wild ungulate expansion is connected to damages exceeding 100 million EUR to agricultural crops and forests. Furthermore, an average of 750000 vehicle collisions with ungulates per year have been reported in Europe, thus indicating a problem related to the safety on roads.

Despite the importance of abundance estimates, none of several ungulate monitoring methods used in Europe is satisfying in terms of cost-effectiveness and accuracy. The most commonly used ground-based counting techniques – snow tracking and drive counts – can lead to biased and/or imprecise results and are very labour intensive. Thus, there is a clear need for new, efficient, cost-effective, and reliable methods to estimate ungulate densities.

Currently, ungulate population management planning in Latvia is based on estimates without a regular census while also leaving out important indices, such as sex-age structure of the population, compliance of population density with the territorial capacity, scope of damage to other branches of economy. Total population size is calculated as arithmetic sum of all estimates reported from the game management units.

Sustainable adaptive wildlife management is a potential solution for loss reduction but requires reliable information on wildlife census for evidence-based decision making. Information communication technologies (ICT) based solutions should be considered as efficient, cost-effective, and reliable option.

Objective:

The project objective is to develop novel, automatic (with a low labour intensity) ICT-based wild animal census methodology to support decision making on sustainable wildlife management and conflict resolution among landowners, hunters and society.

Activities:

  1. Involvement of potential end users and review of existing capabilities to specify target data product requirements and framework (techniques, algorithms) as basis for the development of wild animal census approach focusing on four dominant even-toed ungulates species in Latvia - red deer (Cervus elaphus), roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), elk (Alces alces) and wild boar (Sus scrofa);
  2. Testing of effective and remote data acquisition techniques with minimal human involvement will focus on unmanned aerial vehicles equipped with thermal and visible light cameras, movement-activated camera traps, passive acoustic sensor networks and GPS tracking of animals;
  3. Development of automatic data processing workflows will be based on advanced machine learning techniques and obtained target animal detection and classification data products will be linked to assessment of animal population and living space capacity in a fixed territory resulting in the methodology for wild animal census for sustainable wildlife management;
  4. Dissemination of the project results through 3 Open Access scientific journal papers, 6 presentations in international conferences and communication with the public through web, social media and outreach events.

Project duration: April 2019 – March 2022

Leading partner: Foundation “Institute for Environmental Solutions”

Partners: SIA “Forest Owners’ Consulting Centre”, Latvian State Forest Research Institute "Silava"

Project scientific manager: IES leading researcher Dainis Jakovels, dainis.jakovels@videsinstituts.lv

Project administrative manager: Roberts Rotbergs Roberts.rotbergs@videsinstituts.lv

Project is financed by: European Regional Development Fund, program 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" 1.1.1.1. measure “Support for applied research”

Co-financers: foundation “Institute for Environmental Solutions”, SIA “Forest Owners’ Consulting Centre”, Latvian State Forest Research Institute "Silava"

Total budget: 769 679.48 EUR

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