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Colossal Biosciences and Save the Elephants Debut First-of-its-Kind Project to Utilize Drones and Machine Learning for Elephant Conservation

Colossal Biosciences, the world’s first de-extinction and species preservation company, has partnered with Save the Elephants, a leading non-profit that works to secure a future for wild African ele...

Business Wire

DALLAS: Colossal Biosciences, the world’s first de-extinction and species preservation company, has partnered with Save the Elephants, a leading non-profit that works to secure a future for wild African elephants, on a first-of-its-kind initiative that will use cutting edge drone technology and machine learning to help track African elephants in Kenya for both conservation and research purposes.

In this collaboration, Save the Elephants will deploy a small fleet of drones equipped with high resolution and infrared cameras to capture elephant behavioral data. The data gathered will then be processed by Colossal’s machine learning core to develop algorithms that will label elephants and automatically identify individual and collective social behavior. “The technological sophistication of modern drones, combined with appropriate analysis including the use of Machine Learning and AI expertise, will reveal many novel insights into elephant behavior and ecology. And the better we understand elephants, the more we can help to secure a future for these iconic giants,” said Fritz Vollrath of Save the Elephants.

“Elephants are in dire need of additional conservation technologies to protect them. Given Colossal’s commitment to the preservation, protection and conservation of animals and ecosystems, we are excited for the opportunity to create a new technology,” says Ben Lamm, Colossal Co-Founder and CEO. “With this project, we will begin to understand elephant decision-making and build models to better understand behavior. This will ultimately lead to more effective habitat conservation and create a more effective, passive elephant tracking system that will not be dependent on human observation in the field, or elephant immobilizations and collaring.”

The AI models developed by Colossal will detect, track and map the location of elephants in their natural habitat. Pose estimation and behavior analysis techniques will then analyze the signals, decision making and social dynamics of elephant herds. These tools will ultimately be used to help the researchers at Save the Elephants understand and organize the vast amounts of video data that is being collected, standardize behavior detection, allow for the individual behavior observation of an entire herd over long time frames, and uncover nuanced behaviors that may go unnoticed by human observers.

“This initiative has put Colossal one step closer to revolutionizing the protection and preservation of all elephant species,” said Matt James, Colossal’s Chief Animal Officer. “By identifying innovative approaches to conserve these endangered species, we’ve been able to understand their behavior in the wild better than ever before.”

As a keystone species, elephants are prime contributors to maintaining the vitality and biodiversity of their ecosystems. The growth of wildlife crime and poaching, as well as human elephant conflict has led to a sharp decline in Asian, African and Forest elephants. Poaching claimed more than 100,000 African elephants between 2010-2012 alone, while elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV), a virus Colossal is committed to eradicating, has been responsible for about half of all deaths of young elephants in human care.

Research data derived from the drone project will help develop an understanding of elephant decision-making and behavior using AI models . It will also provide Colossal with key data to use in for the eventual rewilding of the woolly mammoth. Studies have confirmed the urgency of rewilding-focused projects due to the rapid loss of many animal species, just as the world is starting to discover how much they impact carbon capture and storage in their environments.

The Colossal team spearheading this project includes Matt James, Colossal’s Chief Animal Officer and Leandra Brickson, Manager of Computational Sciences, who is leading the team applying artificial intelligence techniques to analyze the drone footage collected during the study. Colossal is working closely with the Save the Elephants team, including CEO Frank Pope and Colossal Scientific Advisor and Save the Elephants Chairman, Fritz Vollrath.

The drone initiative comes on the heels of Colossal’s continued commitment to end elephant extinction. Other milestone efforts include the commitment to:

  • Preserve the genetic code of all three living elephant species. Colossal partnered with the Vertebrate Genomes Project (VGP) to fund, sequence, assemble, and annotate the Asian, African, and Forest elephant genomes to genetically preserve the species for future generations. The Asian and African genomes were made publicly available in 2022 and 2023 respectively. The Forest elephant genome is scheduled for early 2024. The genomes are publicly available to be used for research without restrictions.
  • Record and understand extant elephant-id population genomes. Colossal will produce population sequence data on 100 African and Asian elephants to achieve this aim.
  • Cure EEHV in all elephant populations. Colossal Biosciences is accelerating efforts to eradicate a fatal disease affecting endangered elephants, Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpes Virus (“EEHV”), the leading cause of death in juvenile Asian elephants born in North America and in their natural range countries. In collaboration with Dr. Paul Ling, Colossal is leading the development of novel treatments and a vaccine that would prevent the deadly virus from infecting elephants - both in zoos and in their natural habitats.
  • Equip modern elephants with traits from their ancestral domain and establish new populations of elephants in low population zones of the Arctic.

Since launching in September 2021, Colossal has raised $225M in total funding. The company, which just completed an oversubscribed $150M Series B financing, has announced de-extincting three species including the thylacine, the dodo, and the woolly mammoth, which shares 99.6 percent of its DNA with the Asian elephant.


Colossal was founded by emerging technology and software entrepreneur Ben Lamm and world renowned geneticist and serial biotech entrepreneur George Church, Ph.D. Colossal creates disruptive technologies for extinct species restoration, critically endangered species protection and the repopulation of critical ecosystems that support the continuation of life on Earth. Colossal is accepting humanity’s duty to restore Earth to a healthier state, while also solving for the future economies and biological necessities of the human condition through cutting-edge science and technologies. To follow along, please visit: www.colossal.com


Save the Elephants (STE) works to secure a future for elephants. Specializing in elephant research, STE provides scientific insights into elephant behavior, intelligence, and long-distance movements and applies them to the challenges of elephant survival. High-tech tracking and other tools help STE work towards a harmonious coexistence between humans and elephants. www.savetheelephants.org


Websites: www.colossal.com, www.vertebrategenomesproject.org
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ItIsColossal, https://twitter.com/genomeark
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/itiscolossal/
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/itiscolossal/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ItIsColossal
Hashtag: #ItIsColossal, #VGP, #GenomicsForAll

Websites: www.savetheelephants.org
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ste_kenya
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/savetheelephants/
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/save-the-elephants
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/savetheelephants.kenya
Hashtag: #savetheelephants


Colossal: Emily.Mailaender@rcpmk.com
Save the Elephants: jane@savetheelephants.org

Fonte: Business Wire

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