Switzerland’s wolf population is increasing, attacks on livestock are on the rise – and tracking wild animals is a challenge. The Swiss company’s innovation should now remedy the situation. Gamekeepers are already excited and various cantons have shown interest.
Swiss wolves were involuntarily the center of attention again this summer. In July, for example, it ruled The Beverin Wolfpack headlines when she attacked several dairy cows on the Schmaserberg. Shortly afterwards, a wolf came dangerously close to a human in Graubünden. Adrian Arquint, head of the cantonal hunting and fishing office, looked into it in an interview with «blue news» “reached the threshold of pain”.
From the federal agency’s perspective, “it would be desirable if we could preemptively regulate the stockpile without endangering it,” Arquint said at the time. In fact, a research group of four students from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) has been working on a development that could soon replace outdated technology in wildlife surveillance.
As “SRF” reports that Synature’s smart microphone uses artificial intelligence. This enables comprehensive monitoring of the wolf population. In addition to a microphone and a minicomputer, the complex device is also equipped with GPS and mobile phone reception. Extensive technical equipment makes it possible to accurately determine the howling of wolves at a distance of 500 meters.
The microphone can filter out screamers
Smart Mic runs all night and captures all the sounds around you. The recorded data is then transmitted to the server via mobile communication. The artificial intelligence then begins its work. Selects the wolf howl and removes all other audio data. Thanks to new technology, wolf calls can be recorded at a distance of up to three kilometers.
In addition, AI creates images from audio data and classifies them. “In the first step, it is used on a large data set, and there it learns how to distinguish wolf boils from non-wolf boils. It is then applied to the collected data,” explains Noah Schmid, CTO at Synature. This also makes it possible to determine the reproduction rate of the packs, as the cubs howl at higher frequencies.
Gamekeepers see great potential
A test run in the Glarner mountains, in which the start-up installed 30 devices, went well. In the Swiss cantons, the latest developments in the field of start-ups are followed with great interest, for example in Basel, Graubünden, Schwyz, Valais and Vaud.
However, Synature is far from the end of its development. The declared goal of the start-up is to facilitate and speed up monitoring and improve the algorithm. Real-time monitoring should then be possible in the medium term.
In addition to the cantons, the latest efforts of the start-up are also being monitored by game wardens. Marco Banzer, wildlife manager in the canton of Glarus, sees great potential in the Smart Mic – also because it monitors large areas more efficiently, especially compared to camera traps: “All other methods are complicated: For example, marking a wolf or narrowing it down. down with almost 100 camera traps – that’s tough.”
Smart Mic already tested on elephants
Moreover, it is Price performance ratio The innovation is very good, as Synature CEO Oliver Stähli points out: “Compared to other monitoring methods, the Smart Mic is definitely the cheapest option.” The prototype currently costs 450 francs to produce. Optimizing equipment and moving to industrial production is likely to keep unit costs down.
In the meantime, one thing is clear: wildlife monitoring in Switzerland definitely needs innovation. Noisy Surveys of the Federal Council At the end of August, 180 wolves and 17 packs lived in Switzerland. The frequent attacks on livestock and the forecast that by the end of 2025 there could be 50 packs and 350 in this country confirm this thesis.
And yet, Synature is not content with just monitoring wild animals in Switzerland, but also thinks beyond national borders. In the spring, the research team tested the Smart Mic on elephants in South Africa. A trip to India is planned for November, where Smart Mic will show whether it delivers satisfactory results with tigers, leopards and greyhounds.