Turtle ID- How does it work?

turtle id sri lanka

Photo-ID is a scientifically proven method of “tagging” animals . Individual turtles can be ID’d by comparing their facial scales, which are unique. This method was developed by Jean et al. (2010).

Photo-ID is a cost-effective, non-invasive technique that can easily be used to monitor sea turtles without disturbing them. It is a great way to involve “citizen scientists”, that is, members of the general public with little to no scientific training.

Unique fingerprints


The facial scutes of sea turtles are unique to the individual, similar to a fingerprint, which allows us to identify individual turtles.


for accurate readings, we usually require 2 close up photos of both left and right side face profiles. And a photo of the shell of the turtle. This will help marking the further identifiers on their physical bodies (shell marks, barnacles, etc.) 

Also a wide angle photo of the turtle from top will help to determine it’s size and the sex. 

we use the I3S pattern program to identify the submissions. The computer program is an easy to use photo recognition and pattern identifier that can give you the best result while limiting human error. The process is simple but must be done properly; first you select the tip of the nose, the inner edge of the eye, and the furthest scale as the reference points and then outline the rest of the identification zone. The program will automatically select 35 points within the zone as identification marks. To see exactly how the I3S program works click here.


Once this is completed, the program shows which turtles have the closest match based on the identification marks and you can either mark it as a previously identified turtle or a new turtle. 

Got a photo? Send it over!

If you have any closeup photos of the turtles, you can send them to support@turtleidsrilanka.org.

We will upload your picture into our database and if it hasn’t been identified you have the honor of naming the turtle. If you are interested, we will keep you up to date about the resightings and development of your turtle.

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