The Shark Guardian Whale Shark Project is citizen science based using photograph ID of Whale Sharks collected from divers and snorkelers all over the world. by photographing a whale shark you can directly contribute to a global effort to better understand and protect these amazing animals.
The whale shark is listed as Endangered in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Photographs showing the distinctive patterning and scarring on whale sharks are used to uniquely identify individuals for long-term, mark-recapture analysis. Resulting population models can be used by local, regional, and international conservation and management authorities to understand the pressures on this species and to take specific action to protect them.
WildBook for Whale Sharks is photo-identification software library from Wild Me. This software framework supports mark-recapture, molecular ecology, and social ecology studies. Wild Book is an award-winning visual database of whale shark (Rhincodon typus) encounters and of individually catalogued whale sharks.
International platform for Whale Shark
photo identification and research
IUCN Red List of Endangered Species
Once an ID photo is received, a local researcher receives a notification. Then the researcher processes the photo using two spot pattern matching algorithms. The algorithms are like facial recognition software for animal patterns.
The algorithm (or manual comparison) provides researchers with a ranked selection of possible matches. Researchers will then visually confirm a match to an existing whale shark in the database, or create a new individual profile.
Shark Guardian shark education and research projects
Shark Guardian has successfully increased awareness and participation of the Wildbook for Whale Sharks project since 2014. Shark Guardian became administrative volunteer researchers for the Wildbook Whale Shark Project, accessing the incoming data and Whale Shark photographs for the Wildbook data base.
Primarily however, Shark Guardian raises awareness to increase the level of participation for the Whale Shark project. This has been achieved by conducting presentations, seminars and workshops to the dive industry and general public. In doing so Shark Guardian has contributed to the increased reports of Whale Shark sightings especially in Thailand.
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IMPORTANT: Whale Shark diving Code of Conduct
Please follow the Diving Code of Conduct when interacting with whale sharks and taking photos:
Approach calmly and maintain good buoyancy control
Approach from either the left or right side of the shark
Rest on knees in sand if necessary and be aware of surrounding reef
Stay at least 3-4m away from the shark, especially when attempting to the get the ID photo
Keep clear from the tail end of the shark
Be courteous to other divers and restrict your interaction time to 5 minutes when other groups are present
Avoid using excess flash
Approach the shark from the head end
Block the shark's movement and route at the head end
Touch the shark or chase them while swimming
Use diver propulsion vehicles to chase sharks
STEP ONE: While diving or snorkeling get the perfect ID shot...
Area between the gills and 1st dorsal fin
Left side of the shark is preferred
The ID area required is between the 1st dorsal fin and the gills
The ID area should be clear of fish or other marine life
Keep the photo angle as level and flat with the shark as possible
The left side of the shark is preferred, get both left and right sides if possible
Photograph any other distinguishing attributes. These include bite marks, fin damage or other scarring