A small Scottish technology firm is taking on the vast of Africa as the lead on an ambitious conservation project.

Glasgow-based start-up EOLAS Insight is providing artificial intelligence and high-resolution satellite imagery to help count elephants roaming a massive national park in Southern Mozambique. It has partnered with the Peace Parks Foundation on the project, which is receiving funding from the European Space Agency.

The work is based on previous projects run by EOLAS and NatureScot as part of the CivTech Accelerator Programme in 2020, which used similar techniques to monitor Scotland’s wild red deer.

“Technology can play a key role in tackling what is arguably the biggest challenge facing humankind – conservation and the climate crisis,” EOLAS managing director Doug McNeil said. “Detecting animals in satellite imagery will have its place in preservation projects of the future, and we are incredibly excited to be the first UK company to demonstrate this capability.”

EOLAS technology tracking red deer in ScotlandDoug McNeil

Neighbouring Glasgow tech start-up Omanos Analytics is working with EOLAS on the African project. Omanos uses downstream satellite data analysis and one-the-ground intelligence to improve transparency and reduce risk around the social and environmental impacts of critical infrastructure projects.

It is hoped that this work will in future offer a greener and cheaper alternative to helicopter-based survey work. The data collected can be used to classify animals’ habits and identify potential risks such as the likelihood of wildfires, while also supporting counter-poaching efforts in remote areas.

“There are so many hugely powerful new technologies available for environmental professionals and ecologists, however, accessing these technologies can be a job in itself,” Mr McNeil said. “At EOLAS we want to take the complexity out of technology and provide invaluable information to our customers.”