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Facial IDs for Great Apes: New Collaboration with Max Planck and Fraunhofer Institutes

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14 March 2011



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The ability to identify individual animals is a prerequisite for many questions in behavioural ecology, cognitive research, conservation monitoring, and wildlife epidemiology. With the increasing availability of remote audiovisual recording devices, such as camera or video traps, standardized data collection has become much easier, in particular in the wild. Yet there are few techniques available to rapidly process the biologically relevant information contained in the data gathered.

The Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (MPI-EVA), the Fraunhofer Institutes IDMT and IIS, and the Visual Information Laboratory at the University of Bristol are now entering into an international collaboration in order to facilitate the visual identification of individual Great Apes and elephants in their natural habitat.

Compared to humans, great apes as well as elephants exhibit skin fold patterns on a far more prominent scale, where structural details can be captured even over some distance by high-resolution photography. The core project objective is to research and implement algorithms and systems that exploit individually characteristic information encoded in the fine structure of animal skin wrinkles.

This joint venture aims at complementing animal-face identification technology under development in the SAISBECO (Semi-Automated Audiovisual Species and Individual Identification System for Behavioural Ecological Research and Conservation) project.

If successful, this research could have a major impact on the understanding of the species, as well as on conservational efforts to preserve them and their habitats.

More related information:
PhD Vacancies
The related SAISBECO project

(For further information please contact Dr Tilo Burghardt)