Expecting to document the behavior of humpback whales and dolphins near Great Barrier Island, post-graduate students from New Zealand instead captured rare footage of endangered Bryde’s whales lunge feeding, according to The Telegraph and CNN.
The aerial footage taken from a custom-built drone in the Hauraki Gulf is being touted by Auckland’s University of Technology as the first time this feeding behavior of a Bryde’s whale has been recorded by an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle.
The video from 133 feet above the ocean shows a mother and her calf lunge feeding on plankton floating just under the surface of the water, according to Fairfax Media.
“I was in awe of these creatures,” Dr. Barbara Bollard-Breen told The Telegraph. “Never before have I seen anything like this. There is no way we would see so much detail from a boat-based survey.
“Bryde’s whales are critically threatened in New Zealand, so it’s thrilling to see them in the wild and to be able to record them feeding from above is very special.”
It is believed that fewer than 200 Bryde’s whales remain in New Zealand waters.
The students were originally focused on a pod of dolphins when the whales were spotted. Quickly, their attention shifted. The incident was “completely unexpected,” Bollard-Breen said.
“It was pure excitement when I was filming, and it’s simply a joy to see every time I watch it,” PhD candidate Lorenzo Fiori told The Telegraph.
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