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Indian Wolves: Pioneering AI Study in Pune’s Grasslands

In a groundbreaking stride that fuses cutting-edge technology with the pursuit of wildlife preservation, the Grassland Trust and the forest department have embarked on an unprecedented journey. A visionary undertaking will be undertaken in Pune's Saswad region to study the lives of Indian wolves.

August 17, 2023: By combining artificial intelligence (AI) and drone technology, researchers hope to shed light on these creatures’ intricate socio-ecological behaviours. Not only does this pioneering research advance our understanding of Indian wolves, but it also shows how scientific advancement and ecological conservation can coexist harmoniously.

An exploration of Indian wolves from multiple perspectives

A new era is beckoning, and the forthcoming study will span two years and integrate expertise from across the globe. The collaboration includes two foreign scientists whose specialized insights enhance the multifaceted approach to understanding these elusive carnivores. The study’s significance lies in its comprehensive scope, highlighting the life cycles and behavioural intricacies of Indian wolves within Saswad’s complex ecosystem.

Guardians of Saswad: An introduction to Indian wolves

Among the five to six dens in Saswad, the forest department’s data reveals an enclave of over 45 wolves. Listed as Schedule I of the 1972 Wildlife Protection Act (most protected species), grey wolves are intriguing creatures that belong to a subspecies. Their claim to distinction extends beyond their genetic antiquity, as they are over a million years older than their global counterparts. As a result of their unique status in evolutionary history, they have been designated evolutionarily significant units (ESUs). The sad decline in their population has pushed them into the ‘endangered’ category, highlighting the urgency of conservation efforts.

An enigma unravelled: The genesis of the study

The visionary founder of the Grassland Trust, Mihir Godbole, articulates the driving force behind this study. Humankind has been fascinated by social carnivores like wolves because of their complex societal structures and coordinated behaviours, such as coordinated hunting. However, tracking, bio-logging, and observation methodologies still limit our understanding of their behaviour. High costs, limited battery life, and their invasive nature make conventional tools such as GPS-equipped bio-loggers ineffective.

A technological odyssey: Following the path of wolves

This study explores Indian wolves’ behaviours, movements, and habitats in Maharashtra’s altered environment to bridge the gap between what we know and what we don’t know. Prof Iain Couzin of the Center for Advanced Study of Collective Behavior at the University of Konstanz, Germany, and the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior curated the trailblazing methodology. This revolutionary approach uses drone-based tracking and advanced computer vision algorithms to autonomously identify and monitor free-roaming animals. With meticulous 3D habitat models, this methodology is cost-effective, adaptive, and non-invasive.

Charting the course with pioneering minds

A cornerstone of the University of Konstanz, Adwait Deshpande spearheads the acquisition of preliminary data on Indian wolves in Pune’s vicinity. Tushar Chavan, a wildlife conservator at the Pune forest department, backs this groundbreaking study and anticipates the first module’s revelations.

The combined dedication of the Grassland Trust, the forest department, and international researchers stands poised to unearth the enigmatic lives of Indian wolves in Saswad. Using AI and drone technology, this study becomes a pivotal moment for wildlife conservation and scientific exploration. We pave the way for a harmonious future by unlocking the secrets of these majestic creatures. The project propels us into a new era of ecological awareness and preservation.


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