These photos of endangered killer whales help scientist understand their species, and help humans understand what family really means.
This mini documentary shows photos of the endangered killer whale species called the southern resident killer whales. There are only 81 killer whales left in the wild, making them endangered. The number is actually an improvement since last year as the whales added five more to their species population.
The photos were taken by a team of marine biologists from NOAA Fisheries with help from Vancouver Aquarium to make sure the whales are getting enough to eat. Not only do the photos answer that question, they also show baby calves, the care, and nurturing given by their mothers.
The NOAA biologist team was able to find out if the endangered killer whales were getting enough to eat by capturing photos with a hexacopter drone. The drone flew over the whales and took pictures from above.
The drone not only captured amazing photos, but it also measured the altitude when it snapped the photo. Scientists can use that information to scale the image and come within centimeters of accuracy.
Once the images have been scaled to size, scientists measure the size of the whale including its length and growth from previous years to determine if they are getting enough to eat.
These photos answered the question the biologists were asking, but also showed a side of these southern resident whales that are important to their existence: the meaning of family.
“They do family better than we do,” says marine biologist John, who was on the excursion that took the photos. We see amazing images of the whales bringing food to a new mom, a baby nursing in the wild, and the pack traveling together as one family.
These amazing photos told scientist that the southern resident endangered killer whales are in fact getting enough to eat and their population has even increased within the past year. The photos also show the care and nourishment within the family of southern resident killer whales.