Animals | VOL. 12

First Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Observation of Epimeletic Behavior in Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphins

Publication Date Jun 5, 2022


Epimeletic behavior has been reported in various species of cetaceans and sometimes in wild populations during vessel-based surveys. Epimeletic behavior in cetaceans involves complex social interactions which have been described using observational and acoustic studies. The recent advances in unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology allowed its application in wildlife research and frequently in cetaceans in conjunction with vessel-based surveys. This article is the first report of intraspecific epimeletic behavior of Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins (Sousa chinensis) in Hong Kong waters using a combination of UAV- and vessel-based photography. Using both techniques, we were able to observe and qualitative analyze the individual body condition, group behavior, and swimming pattern during the epimeletic event. This study highlighted that UAVs can be used to observe the complex social behaviors and interactions of cetaceans from the aerial angle while keeping a minimal level of disturbance to the animals. Aerial footage can also be quantitatively analyzed to provide further insights on the group behaviors of cetaceans. The application allows efficient assessment of health, behavior, and ecology of wild animals, offering valuable opportunities for researchers working on free-ranging populations.


Epimeletic Behavior Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Vessel-based Surveys Ecology Of Wild Animals Humpback Dolphins Interactions Of Cetaceans Behavior In Cetaceans Aerial Footage Complex Social Interactions Sousa Chinensis

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