SCANimals

A United Arab Emirates zoo is piloting an innovative new way to keep tabs on its furred and feathered inhabitants.

Al Ain Zoo is trialing an animal identification system powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI).

The sophisticated new system will be able to pick out individual birds and animals by matching their facial features or the unique imprint of their skin to a database of stored images.

Al Ain Zoo has opted to test the new tech only on the critically endangered Dama Gazelle and Arabian Sand Cat, and the completely adorable penguin.

Under the new ID system, a zookeeper will use their smart phone to identify which particular penguin just painted a rock white with its breakfast. All they need to do is capture a photo of the small yet expressive fecal graffiti artist in action and upload the snapshot to the system where it will be matched with data including the bird’s name and medical records.

The project is a collaboration between the zoo, IBM and the Abu Dhabi Digital Authority.

“This project comes in line with the zoo’s directions for using modern technologies in preserving animals and providing the highest standard of animal welfare,” said Al Ain Zoo’s director of IT, Ahmed Karama Al Ameri.

“The AI systems can monitor the animals’ data, species, medical conditions and welfare needs accurately and easily.”

If the noninvasive ID system works, it will help relieve zookeepers everywhere from the horrors of waking up at 4am in anguish over whether the right aardvark got the right medicine.

The only drawback of the tech is that it could one day lead to a disgruntled Dama Gazelle filing a lawsuit over a data breach if the animal’s personal information is ever compromised.

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