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The killer whale from the drone

The Elephant Seal Research Group is using pictures and video footage taken from a Phantom III drone to study the killer whales of Sea Lion Island. Drones present significant advantages over land-based and boat-based observations, because the drone permits to observe killer whales at close distance, with a view from the top, without disturbing their behavior.

We are very interested in killer whale association and sociality. Killer whales are long living cetaceans that adopt complex hunting strategies. They live in stable groups in which individuals have strong, lon lasting, social bonds. Sociality is a key factor of killer whale biology, but it is not easy to study, because killer whale spend the most of their time under water, move fast, and their behavior is easily changed by boats approaching at close distance. Using our drones we have been to get a much more detailed picture of killer whale sociality.

 

Pod from the drone

A killer whale pod from the air.

 

Using our drone we have been able to observe behaviors that are almost impossible to observe from land or boat. For example, for the first we have observed suckling. The following picture shows a three year old calf, Pinnino, suckling below its mother, Puma.

 

Suckling

Pinnino suckling from its mum.

 

For further information please contact us by e-mail at orcas@eleseal.org. Thank you for your interest in our research projects!