New Software Saves Endangered Zebras By Analyzing People

Photo credit: PRNewsFoto/IBM via Press Release

Knowing that a species is endangered is one thing, but knowing how to save it is a whole other problem. For the Grevy's zebra, which has only 2,500 individuals left in the wild, how and why people hunt them. IBM has created a new predictive analytics software that Marwell Wildlife can use to collect huge amounts of complex information -- such as what herdsmen think about the zebras, where the animals are located, why they hunt them, how everything from education level to access to medicines impacts their decisions -- and figure out the best areas to focus conservation efforts. This high-tech software might be a big key to saving the Grevy's zebra. Predictive analytics is important to conservation because saving a species can be a surprisingly complex issue. The key to saving an endangered animal can go far beyond keeping poachers away, perhaps laying instead in urban development, access to food or medical care, or how water is being used miles away from the species' habitat.

According to a press release, "Marwell Wildlife selected IBM predictive analytics software to help identify patterns and analyse data which will help inform decisions on conservation measures for Grevy's zebra. By improving Marwell's insight into herders' attitudes through the surveys, and combining this with information from aerial surveys, camera traps and radio collars on the zebras, Marwell now has a more detailed understanding of the issues surrounding the zebra and are therefore able to understand the main threats facing the species, which allows limited conservation resources to be focused towards these areas."

What's special here is the software goes beyond just pinpointing habitat areas or migration routes -- it also helps analyze people's attitudes toward the zebras and how that factors in to the status of Grevy's zebras in the wild, factoring in everything from education, to age, to location, to how people feel about the benefits of wildlife. By looking at the problem from as many angles as possible, the software is able to assist conservationists in finding exactly where and how the Grevy's zebra can be saved.

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