A roadside detection system to help protect endangered leopard cats from being hit by passing vehicles was unveiled on Friday in northern Taiwan.
The system, the first of its kind, was developed by the Endemic Species Research Institute and National Chung Hsing University in a project initiated by the Directorate-General of Highways.
It uses thermal imaging cameras and artificial intelligence-powered recognition software to identify leopard cats and display a warning message on a traffic sign 1km ahead of where the animal is detected.
The system warns drivers and gives them time to take precautions, said Chiang Ya-yu (蔣雅郁), an assistant professor at the university’s Department of Mechanical Engineering.
It emits pulsing lights and sound to discourage the animal from crossing the road, Chiang said.
The system, installed on the Jhuolan section of Provincial Highway No. 3, can also detect Chinese ferret-badgers and Formosan gem-faced civets, Chiang added.
Sixteen cameras have been set up along the stretch of road to collect data, the highway authority said, adding that depending on the results, it might expand the system to other places.
There are less than 500 leopard cats in the wild nationwide, and most can be found in Taichung, and Miaoli and Nantou counties, the Leopard Cat Association of Taiwan said.
Four leopard cats have been reported killed by traffic so far this year.
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