How to Identify Individual Whales

How to Identify Individual Whales


– [Narrator] I know about
humpback whales in general, but I’ve become intrigued by my whale. Is there a photo of it somewhere? Could I even identify who it is? – [Off Screen] Oh, fluke! Beautiful. – [Narrator] I’ve heard of someone who can help me find out. – I guess people would
call me the whale tail guy. – [Narrator] Ted Cheeseman
runs an unparalleled humpback whale photo
identification service. – I’ve now looked at way over
100,000 images of whales. – [Off Screen] Has that made you weird? (laughs) – Could be. – [Narrator] Ted’s database
is called Happy Whale and it relies on a very helpful
feature of whales’ tails. – Humpback whales’ tails
are really fantastic. They will tend to scar black on white. – [Narrator] A humpback’s
life story is written in the unique pattern of
scars on its tail flukes. – [Ted] You can use the
bite marks of killer whales, you can use scars from
entanglement in fishing gear, barnacles leave a little round scar. – [Narrator] For decades,
scientists had painstakingly assembled catalogs of
humpbacks’ tail flukes, which they gave to Ted. – 7,000 images of 3,000 known individuals over the past 25, 30 years of
whale science in California. – [Narrator] Ted’s big idea
was to combine these catalogs with the constant stream of
whale-watching photographs. – So you see a whale,
you take a photograph, send it to Happy Whale. We’ll identify that individual. It might be the whale
Grumpy, it might be Frosty, one of my favorites. – [Narrator] People’s holiday snaps have become a scientific tool. – [Ted] We have identified about 1,500 in the last three years. So, that’s coming close to, say, 70% of individuals in California. – [Narrator] Is there a chance we could track down my whale? (upbeat music)

7 thoughts on “How to Identify Individual Whales

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *