WWF-Indonesia saves orangutans with AWS

World Wildlife Fund for Nature Indonesia (WWF-Indonesia) is working with Amazon Web Services to rev up efforts to save critically endangered orangutans in Indonesia.

Using AWS machine learning services, WWF-Indonesia can better understand the size and health of orangutan populations in their native habitat, enabling the nonprofit to survey more territories with fewer resources, reduce operating expenses, and channel more of the conservation funding to protect the biodiversity of Indonesia.

Human activities including poaching, destruction of habitat, and the illegal pet trade have caused severe declines in the orangutan population, which is comprised of three species of great apes native to Indonesia and Malaysia. 

According to WWF, Bornean orangutan populations have declined by more than 50% over the past 60 years and the species’ habitat has been reduced by at least 55% over the past 20 years. Orangutans are largely solitary and spend much of their lives in trees, complicating conservationist efforts to accurately measure remaining populations.

Using AWS, WWF-Indonesia now automatically gathers images from mobile phones and motion-activated cameras at its basecamp and uploads these to Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) where they are analysed. Using technologies including Amazon SageMaker, a fully-managed machine learning service that allows data scientists and developers to quickly and easily build, train, and deploy machine learning models at scale,  WWF Indonesia has reduced its analysis time from up to three days to less than ten minutes. 

By adopting machine learning, WWF-Indonesia has reduced its reliance on a limited pool of conservationist experts and improved the accuracy and breadth of its data about orangutan populations.

In the future, WWF-Indonesia plans to explore the use of additional machine learning services, such as Amazon Rekognition, an image and video analysis service, to further improve the speed and accuracy of its population identification and tracking efforts.

“With careful use of technology, this innovation will help the biologists and conservationists to effectively and cost-efficiently monitor the wildlife behaviour through time and thus we can allocate our resources to scale up the monitoring efforts and invest more in conservation actions,” said Aria Nagasastra, finance and technology director of WWF-Indonesia. “The collaboration…can lead to the opportunity to elevate the biodiversity conservation practices in Indonesia to the next level.”