April 24th, 2024

Rescuers hope AI will help reunite orphaned whale with its family in B.C.

By The Canadian Press on April 1, 2024.

The tides are expected to be more promising this week in the northern Vancouver Island lagoon where an orphaned orca so far can’t be convinced to leave. A killer whale and its calf are shown in a lagoon near Zeballos, B.C. in a handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Jared Towers, Bay Cetology **MANDATORY CREDIT**

ZEBALLOS, B.C. – It will be another day of waiting for those hoping to coax an orphaned whale out of a northern Vancouver Island lagoon, while rescuers turn to artificial intelligence to help track the calf’s family.

The Fisheries Department says the tides in the remote location continue to be too low for efforts to encourage the two-year-old Bigg’s killer whale to go over a sandbar and into the open ocean.

The statement says the animal, which has stayed in the lagoon since its mother died more than a week ago, has remained in the deepest area in the middle and is believed to be eating birds.

The B.C.-based whale research group Bay Cetology is offering access to its online AI-assisted photo database to local photographers and tour operators as part of efforts to track the whale’s relatives, giving the calf a chance to connect with its pod.

Bay Cetology executive director Jared Towers says the technology scans submitted photos of killer whales and identifies them based on their dorsal fins and other markings in near real time, with more than 90 per cent accuracy.

He says knowing where the calf’s relatives are will be important if rescuers end up lifting the animal out of the lagoon so it can be returned to an area where its family pod is travelling

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 1, 2024.

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