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WWF Drones Capture Mother Whale 'Nurturing' Calf

The conservation group has released the first-ever footage.

13/10/2016 1:23 PM AEDT | Updated 13/10/2016 1:25 PM AEDT
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For the first time southern right whales have been snapped by drones.

The use of drones may divide opinion, but there's little doubt they can be used for some pretty cool stuff. Like helping to save whales in oceans off South Australia.

WWF-Australia has released amazing pics and video taken by drones that is being used to check on the health of endangered southern right whales.

The stunning aerial photos -- the first of their kind -- of mum Bella and her calf show the dramatic weight loss mother whales experience in bringing up their young, while also managing environmental threats.

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"These include getting tangled in marine debris, disturbance from oil and gas development, and global ocean warming which could reduce their food supply in Antarctica," WWF-Australia whale researcher Chris Johnson said.

"That's why this project is so important. If the condition of the whales changes in the future it could be a sign that human activities are having an impact.

"Nurturing a calf is already tough enough for the mothers without humans adding to the pressure."

Southern right whales make an epic journey to give birth, travelling thousands of kilometres from their Antarctic feeding grounds to South Australia. They stay there for about three months to fatten their calves before returning to Antarctica.

The species is making a comeback after nearly being hunted to extinction, with the drone-based research being undertaken by WWF along with Murdoch University.

Pleasingly, marine scientists have spotted a record-high 172 southern right whales off the South Australian coast this year.

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