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Assessing condition of Southern Right Whales in South East Australia
thesisposted on 2023-06-06, 23:17 authored by Sarah Mcalary
Southern right whales migrate to Australia to calve and nurse their young during May to October, then migrate to the Southern Ocean to feed during November to April, however little is known about their specific foraging grounds. Assessing body condition for whales is essential in understanding the health of the supporting environment and food productivity in the feeding grounds. A way to assess body condition of whales is using a visual measurement tool such as the visual health assessment protocol developed by a group of researchers endorsed by the IWC. The protocol suggests four condition factors of body condition, lesions, sloughing and cyamids can indicate the overall health of an individual. This is obtained through an assessment of aerial and land based images of the individuals collected in a photo identification catalogue, SEA SRW PIC, which is a historical dataset from 1995-2020. The findings of this study show that a visual measurement tool, such as the IWC’s protocol, is a sensitive enough measure to detect inter-annual variability as well as being sensitive enough to detect broad scale environmental indices. Future research can be done to investigate specific foraging grounds to help understand the links between condition and environmental factors in the areas in which they feed.