Can artificial intelligence help save the natural world?

Jackie Snow

PBS Nova

Nov 25, 2020

African elephants, the biggest land animals on earth, are in grave peril: They could be extinct in the next decade. Poachers kill an estimated 55 elephants every day. The challenge of protecting elephants is vast, literally—reserves are sprawling, often remote, and understaffed. AI is starting to fill the gaps by being the eyes and brains behind spotting or predicting where the poachers might be. Conservationists have long turned to technology—such as remote sensors and animal I.D. tags—to learn more about the species they study, bring attention to the worst problems, and inform solutions like protected refuges that can help species return to health. Conservation AI isn’t just for remote areas; it could also make cities greener. For example, trees reduce the urban heat island effect, reduce stress in humans, and reduce flooding during storms.