Humans v. A.I.: Can People Identify Pumas?

By Ross Rosenthal
Marketing and Communications Specialist

Puma in Chile

One of the most exciting ways to participate in conservation efforts is by keeping an eye out for wild cats and reporting sightings to wildlife officials or scientists. 

In a recent paper in Science of the Total Environment, people proved to be efficient and effective "computers” capable of identifying individual pumas, highlighting the potential contributions of guides and tourists around the world to biodiversity monitoring. This could be especially important in areas where artificial intelligence algorithms have yet to be developed and trained to classify animals and individuals from photographs, especially since AI tools are often expensive.  

The results from research testing whether people, both in the United States and Chile, could accurately recognize the differences between pictures of pumas, the cat of many names, showed that 92.2 percent of participants could make these observations accurately. This demonstrates that everyday people possess the necessary skills to aid in conservation research and emphasizes that tourists and professional guides are underutilized resources around the globe. Conservation projects that include local people have the dual benefit of being more successful in achieving their objectives, as well.


Read the original study with a subscription from Science of the Total Environment. 

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