Commenced in January 2007
Frequency: Monthly
Edition: International
Paper Count: 2

Wildlife Protection Related Abstracts

2 Ensemble Methods in Machine Learning: An Algorithmic Approach to Derive Distinctive Behaviors of Criminal Activity Applied to the Poaching Domain

Authors: Zachary Blanks, Solomon Sonya


Poaching presents a serious threat to endangered animal species, environment conservations, and human life. Additionally, some poaching activity has even been linked to supplying funds to support terrorist networks elsewhere around the world. Consequently, agencies dedicated to protecting wildlife habitats have a near intractable task of adequately patrolling an entire area (spanning several thousand kilometers) given limited resources, funds, and personnel at their disposal. Thus, agencies need predictive tools that are both high-performing and easily implementable by the user to help in learning how the significant features (e.g. animal population densities, topography, behavior patterns of the criminals within the area, etc) interact with each other in hopes of abating poaching. This research develops a classification model using machine learning algorithms to aid in forecasting future attacks that is both easy to train and performs well when compared to other models. In this research, we demonstrate how data imputation methods (specifically predictive mean matching, gradient boosting, and random forest multiple imputation) can be applied to analyze data and create significant predictions across a varied data set. Specifically, we apply these methods to improve the accuracy of adopted prediction models (Logistic Regression, Support Vector Machine, etc). Finally, we assess the performance of the model and the accuracy of our data imputation methods by learning on a real-world data set constituting four years of imputed data and testing on one year of non-imputed data. This paper provides three main contributions. First, we extend work done by the Teamcore and CREATE (Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events) research group at the University of Southern California (USC) working in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security to apply game theory and machine learning algorithms to develop more efficient ways of reducing poaching. This research introduces ensemble methods (Random Forests and Stochastic Gradient Boosting) and applies it to real-world poaching data gathered from the Ugandan rain forest park rangers. Next, we consider the effect of data imputation on both the performance of various algorithms and the general accuracy of the method itself when applied to a dependent variable where a large number of observations are missing. Third, we provide an alternate approach to predict the probability of observing poaching both by season and by month. The results from this research are very promising. We conclude that by using Stochastic Gradient Boosting to predict observations for non-commercial poaching by season, we are able to produce statistically equivalent results while being orders of magnitude faster in computation time and complexity. Additionally, when predicting potential poaching incidents by individual month vice entire seasons, boosting techniques produce a mean area under the curve increase of approximately 3% relative to previous prediction schedules by entire seasons.

Keywords: Statistical Analysis, Machine Learning, Wildlife Protection, stochastic gradient boosting, imputation, random forests, ensemble methods

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1 Low-Cost Aviation Solutions to Strengthen Counter-Poaching Efforts in Kenya

Authors: Kuldeep Rawat, Michael O'Shea, Maureen McGough


The paper will discuss a National Institute of Justice (NIJ) funded project to provide cost-effective aviation technologies and research to support counter-poaching operations related to endangered, protected, and/or regulated wildlife. The goal of this project is to provide cost-effective aviation technology and research support to Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) in their counter-poaching efforts. In pursuit of this goal, Elizabeth City State University (ECSU) is assisting the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) in enhancing the Kenya Wildlife Service’s aviation technology and related capacity to meet its counter-poaching mission. Poaching, at its core, is systemic as poachers go to the most extreme lengths to kill high target species such as elephant and rhino. These high target wildlife species live in underdeveloped or impoverished nations, where poachers find fewer barriers to their operations. In Kenya, with fifty-nine (59) parks and reserves, spread over an area of 225,830 square miles (584,897 square kilometers) adequate surveillance on the ground is next to impossible. Cost-effective aviation surveillance technologies, based on a comprehensive needs assessment and operational evaluation, are needed to curb poaching and effectively prevent wildlife trafficking. As one of the premier law enforcement Air Wings in East Africa, KWS plays a crucial role in Kenya, not only in counter-poaching and wildlife conservation efforts, but in aerial surveillance, counterterrorism and national security efforts as well. While the Air Wing has done, a remarkable job conducting aerial patrols with limited resources, additional aircraft and upgraded technology should significantly advance the Air Wing’s ability to achieve its wildlife protection mission. The project includes: (i) Needs Assessment of the KWS Air Wing, to include the identification of resources, current and prospective capacity, operational challenges and priority goals for expansion, (ii) Acquisition of Low-Cost Aviation Technology to meet priority needs, and (iii) Operational Evaluation of technology performance, with a focus on implementation and effectiveness. The Needs Assessment reflects the priorities identified through two site visits to the KWS Air Wing in Nairobi, Kenya, as well as field visits to multiple national parks receiving aerial support and interviewing/surveying KWS Air wing pilots and leadership. Needs Assessment identified some immediate technology needs that includes, GPS with upgrades, including weather application, Night flying capabilities, to include runway lights and night vision technology, Cameras and surveillance equipment, Flight tracking system and/or Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon, Lightweight ballistic-resistant body armor, and medical equipment, to include a customized stretcher and standard medical evacuation equipment. Results of this assessment, along with significant input from the KWS Air Wing, will guide the second phase of this project: technology acquisition. Acquired technology will then be evaluated in the field, with a focus on implementation and effectiveness. Results will ultimately be translated for any rural or tribal law enforcement agencies with comparable aerial surveillance missions and operational environments, and jurisdictional challenges, seeking to implement low-cost aviation technology. Results from Needs Assessment phase, including survey results and our ongoing technology acquisition and baseline operational evaluation will be discussed in the paper.

Keywords: Aviation Technology, Wildlife Protection, aerial surveillance mission, counter-poaching

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