HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Drones played a key role in research for the Marine Mammal Research Program at the University of Hawaii.
A team of researchers tracked six pygmy killer whales off Maui for three weeks in 2019. They found they were losing weight at an alarming rate, and say it have been caused by climate change.
Data showed that on average, each whale was losing about two percent in body weight daily. Two eventually stranded themselves on shore and died.
It was the result of odd behavior noticed in the animals.
Pygmy killer whales are normally found about 25 miles off shore, but those tracked in this study were within a few hundred meters. Just a month earlier, 11 pygmy killer whales came ashore in South Maui in a mass stranding.
[Read a previous report: Scientists scramble to find cause of stranding that left 4 whales dead on Maui]
Researchers hope that unmanned drone monitoring this the method used in this research can lead to better public policy to protect endangered sea life.
“This new approach opens doors to quantify changes in conditions in response to human activity can climactic changes that are imposing towards these animals,” program director Lars Bejder said.
The scientists involved said this is the first time they’ve been able to monitor starving in the animals of this magnitude.
MMRP is partnering with the Pacific Whale Foundation in furthering research of humpback whales in Hawaii waters during the winter months.