Photographs captured by the public may be the vital answer to understanding one of Australia’s apex predators; the killer whale.
As orcas are highly mobile species, which means they are unpredictable and difficult to track, David Donnelly from the Dolphin Research Institute is thankful for photographs taken by the public, because it allows research scientists to learn about these apex predators a lot more efficiently.
“It allows eyes and cameras to be present in many places where research scientists can’t be all the time. In other words, to do what we do and only have our team do it, we would not have the success that we have had, because you can’t be everywhere all the time,” Mr Donnelly said.
“All we need from citizen scientists is some photos, a time, a date, a location and maybe a few other small details, so it’s very similar information that we would want to acquire if we had been there ourselves.
One of the eight killer whales swimming near Merimbula Wharf. Picture by David Rogers Photography.
“It works really, really well, particularly when you have passionate and long-term contributors, like the case for the South Coast of NSW, and also the south-east coast of Tasmania, because they become familiar with what’s required, and they just do the work because they are passionate and interested.
“That is incredibly important and necessary if you want to study killer whales in Eastern Australia.”
One such individual is Peter Whiter from DoubleTake Photographics who was on
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“There are things that can be described by anybody that had a clue, that can help them, and I did that on the phone with [David Donnelly] this morning,” Mr Whiter said.
He described how the calf displayed some really interesting behaviour, almost appearing to be playing dead on the surface of the water, even making Mr Whiter think it was the body of a dolphin which had been killed by the orcas.
“This animal was just sitting on the surface like a dead dolphin, after a minute it just swam away,” he said.
One of the magnificent Killer whales in Merimbula. Picture by DoubleTake Photographics.
Mr Donnelly, who has dedicated his life to studying marine animals from blue whales to humpback whales, southern right whales to Shepherd’s beaked whales, said Australia’s apex predator, the orca, was incredibly fascinating to him.
“When you work on a variety of animals, you get to see differences and behaviours and interactions and stuff like that, and I just found killer whales incredibly fascinating,” Mr Donnelly said.
“It struck me as very unusual that we knew virtually nothing about them at the time that I started doing this, and I think that’s kind of a bit of an error.
“We don’t know anything about Australia’s apex predator, and that’s just remarkable to me.”
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