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Application of YOLOv4 for Detection and Motion Monitoring of Red Foxes

Animal activity is an indicator for its welfare and manual observation is time and cost intensive. To this end, automatic detection and monitoring of live captive animals is of major importance for assessing animal activity, and, thereby, allowing for early recognition of changes indicative for diseases and animal welfare issues. We demonstrate that machine learning methods can provide a gap-less monitoring of red foxes in an experimental lab-setting, including a classification into activity patterns. Therefore, bounding boxes are used to measure fox movements, and, thus, the activity level of the animals. We use computer vision, being a non-invasive method for the automatic monitoring of foxes. More specifically, we train the existing algorithm ‘you only look once’ version 4 (YOLOv4) to detect foxes, and the trained classifier is applied to video data of an experiment involving foxes. As we show, computer evaluation outperforms other evaluation methods. Application of automatic detection of foxes can be used for detecting different movement patterns. These, in turn, can be used for animal behavioral analysis and, thus, animal welfare monitoring. Once established for a specific animal species, such systems could be used for animal monitoring in real-time under experimental conditions, or other areas of animal husbandry.

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