Drone catches rarely sighted Bryde's whales in action
New Zealand lists them as a critically threatened species, so catching a Bryde's whale in action is a pretty rare event. One team of marine scientists has not only sighted the endangered cetacean, but done so through the eye of a camera drone, meaning we can all have a gander too.
Researchers from the Auckland University of Technology (AUT) spotted the adult Bryde's whale chowing down on some plankton off the coast of Auckland, before a young calf came in for its share. The whale is estimated to be 12 m (39.4 ft) in length and weigh 12 tonnes (13.2 tons).
The researchers believe it to be the first time the feeding behavior of a Bryde's whale, which has an estimated local population of under 200, has been filmed by drone and were stunned to have captured the rare moment.
Drones have fast emerged as valuable tools for conservation, particularly when it comes to marine life as they can be deployed without disturbing the animals. Researchers from the Vancouver Aquarium are using the aerial vehicles to monitor behavior of killer whales, while they are also being used as a tool to track illegal fishing activity off the coast of Belize.
"I was in awe of these creatures," says Dr Barbara Bollard Breen, senior lecturer in Geospatial Sciences at AUT and research supervisor, of the Bryde's whales. "Never before have I seen anything like this. There is no way we would see so much detail from a boat-based survey."
You can take a look at the vision for yourself below.