New tech to record faces of rare monkeys
XI’AN — Scientists are developing facial recognition technology for golden snub-nosed monkeys, also known as golden monkeys, a protected species living in the Qinling Mountains.
The research team, comprised of scientists from Xi’an in Shaanxi province, is also the first in China to systematically study golden monkeys in the wild.
The face recognition technology aims to establish an information database of golden monkeys in the Qinling Mountains by recording the animals’ facial features.
The technology is still in the experimental stage, but is currently able to recognize about 200 golden monkeys. “We take 700 to 800 photos of each monkey, while the recognition rate can reach 94 percent,” said Zhang He, a member of the research team. The system can be used in infrared cameras set in the wild to automatically spot monkeys, identify them and record their behaviors, he said.
Monkey facial recognition is difficult as the animals are hairier than humans with subtle facial feature differences, requiring the system to have a deeper learning ability.
“We need more high-resolution images to improve the recognition rate,” said team leader Li Baoguo. “But that is extremely difficult as the monkeys don’t cooperate with the cameras in the wild.”
The new technology will significantly boost the study of the monkeys as they mature, as traditionally it takes scientists one to two years to conduct in-depth behavioral analysis on a specific colony.
“If the monkey facial recognition technology is adopted, early studies of the species, including location, identification and the observation of behaviors, will be greatly shortened, thus improving research efficiency,” Li said.
The Qinling Mountains are home to about 4,000 golden snub-nosed monkeys, which stay all year round in the forests at an altitude of 1,500 meters to 3,300 meters. The mountains also have a huge variety of plants and wild animals such as giant pandas and crested ibis.