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Orphaned Elephants in Botswana are About to Receive Some Help

This is thanks to a pioneering collaboration between wildlife foundation Elephant Havens and biotech company Colossal. The collaboration will see AI used to study elephant behavior, to aid the reintroduction of orphans to the wild. Elephant Havens co-founder Debra Stevens says human-wildlife conflict is the leading cause of elephants becoming orphaned — the majority of incidents involving fires. The foundation is caring for orphans as part of a reintroduction program that will monitor their progress for over a decade. The foundation is partnering with Colossal on an extensive data-gathering operation, using artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze the animals’ behavior and pair it with genomic data on each elephant. “We’ll be able to mix the art of the elephant handlers with the science of today,” argues Matt James, chief animal officer at Colossal. The AI will be fed video footage which has been interpreted by elephant handlers, so that over time it can learn about social behaviors and leadership models, for example. Colossal is also sequencing the genomes of Elephant Havens’ orphans to conduct a gene-trait analysis of individuals, to see how their genetic information might be expressed in their behavior.