With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Army Research Office, researchers are using artificial intelligence (AI) and game theory to solve poaching and illegal logging.

The AI-driven application, called PAWS (Protection Assistant for Wildlife Security), uses data on past patrols and evidence of hunting. The system “learns” as it receives the information.

PAWS incorporates complex terrain details, including the topography of protected areas. The data results in practical patrol routes that minimize elevation changes, saving time and energy. Additionally, the system creates a "street map," taking into account the natural transit paths that have the most animal traffic – and thus the most poaching.

The application also randomizes patrols to avoid falling into predictable patterns.

Since 2015, two non-governmental organizations, Panthera and Rimbat, have used PAWS to protect forests in Malaysia. The research won the Innovative Applications of Artificial Intelligence award for deployed application, as one of the best AI applications with measurable benefits.

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