Non-profit environmental organisation Conservation International today revealed that it is empowering ecologists around the world with HP's big data technology to help them detect risks to endangered animals.

The charity, which is working with HP under the Earth Insights Project, said at HP's Discover conference in Barcelona today that the partnership was necessary to help it process the large amounts of data collected from environmental analysis of animal populations in the tropical rainforests.

Ultimately the aim of the project is to gain insights from the data that can act as an "early warning system" for conservationists.

Through Earth Insights, Conservation International has already identified 33 species that are undergoing a population decline, including the Western Gorilla in the Republic of Congo, which data reveals has seen a 10 per cent drop in population since 2009, classing it as a critically endangered species. Other species thought to be in decline include the the sun bear and the wild boar found in Malaysia, the agile mangabey found in the Republic of Congo and the greater grison found in Ecuador.

The HP Vertica Analytics Platform allows Conservation International to analyse data in "near-real time" and is being used to monitor a total of 275 species. 

The charity said it is using the platform to store and integrate large quantities of data, which it gathers from sensors in 16 countries including Madagascar, Brazil and the Congo. The data ranges from temperature, humidity and solar radiation, in addition to thousands of photos taken by motion-sensitive cameras that are triggered when an animal walks past.

This data is stored on the Earth Insights platform, which is hosted on HP servers and accessible to scientists working for Conservation International worldwide. 

Conservation International SVP Sandy Andelman told Techworld that scientists have been collecting data in remote places for decades but most of it hasn't been accessible to others.

"Now someone can go online and search seamlessly across all these resources," she said. "For me this is the future. Not just for these camera trap images but for all kinds of data that ecologists in different parts of the world collect.

"It's more powerful if my data can be combined with a thousand other people’s data and it’s really been the project with HP and Vertica to do that."

Terabytes of data are now stored in the platform, including more than 1.4 million photos and more than three million climate measurements. 

Commenting on the news, HP CEO Meg Whitman said: “In an effort to help create a more sustainable world, HP Earth Insights uses our products and services to deliver near real-time analytics to provide scientists with more accurate and more actionable environmental information. 

“The results of the early warning system demonstrate the ability of HP to use big data to address the world’s most complex challenges for our customers and partners across sectors, industries and organizations.”

Tropical forests are home to approximately 30 million species — half of all the plants and animals on earth — and generate 40 percent of the earth’s oxygen. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, tropical forests are vanishing at a rate of about 18,000 square miles (4.6 million hectares) per year.