The Lion Identification Network of Collaborators (LINC) has adopted the use of facial recognition software and images of the profiles of individual lions.
The Kenya-based organisation is crowdfunded project from Lion Guardians, a conservation organization.
LINC is in a collaborative effort with lion researchers helping them monitor population levels and where different lions travel in their migrations.across East Africa and software developers around the world.
The software development tool was led by IEF R&D in the USA and will use an open database paired with the latest computer vision techniques, accessed via an online web portal.
Users will upload lion sightings onto LINC which will use facial recognition software to match the current observation with observations in the database by focusing on the specific facial elements that include whisker spots and eye markings.
Previously, lions could only be identified through photographs taken with high quality cameras and focusing on specific identification zones, such as whisker spots. Facial recognition of lions would open the door to millions of photographs taken of lions by the public and provide a platform to share that information, thereby vastly increasing knowledge of lion populations.
Tracking efforts come with a host of difficulties: GPS transmitters are expensive. In addition, unlike leopards, cheetahs and tigers–whose spots and stripes make identification fairly easy–adult lions lack recognizable coat patterns.
Within the next few months about 1,000 lions will be added to LINC.