Researchers from Israel's leading school of marine sciences have spotted a surprising guest last month off the country's shores — a massive sperm whale. This great leviathan of the deep, who was previously unknown to the scientific community, has become the first whale to have been cataloged in Israeli territorial water, buying it the moniker of the "first Israeli whale".
A pod of eight whales was spotted in early April by researchers from Greenpeace and the University of Haifa in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of the northern Israeli city.
Kim Kobo, a graduate research student from Haifa’s Charney School of Marine Sciences, was able to photograph the tail of one of the elusive mammals just as it dove into the depths.
The researchers then proceeded to contact colleagues in Greece, Cyprus and Turkey. And using the photo of the tail — which acts as a kind of a "fingerprint" thanks to each individual whale's unique scars and patterns — attempted to find out whether the whale was known to researchers in other countries.
After learning that the whale — believed to be a male — was never cataloged before by any other research station or school, it was given the name Kim after the researcher who first spotted it and was cataloged by the Charney School of Marine Sciences, making it the first whale to be cataloged by Israeli researchers.
"It's a nice feeling," Kobo said. "It's especially exciting that I was part of this study. Most of our lab members have dolphins named after them… But I had the honor of having a sperm whale taking my name."
Dr. Aviad Scheinin, the Head Apex Predators Investigator at the University of Haifa’s Morris Kahn Marine Research Station, said: "Sperm whales are on the verge of extinction in the Mediterranean and their population is in rapid decline.”
“We hope that our discovery will show that the Haifa area serves as an important habitat for them. We hope that Kim will be the first on a long list of Israeli whales."