Getting a fix on the southern right whale (tohorā)

Project will model how the whale's habitats and feeding locations may alter under climate change.

Dr Leena Riekkola

Two centuries of whaling data and contemporary satellite tracking will help Dr Leena Riekkola model the habitats and feeding locations of Aotearoa’s rare southern right whale (tohorā) in the Southern Ocean.

The Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of Auckland student won a Rutherford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship for the project.

Learning from the past, Dr Riekkola will model how the whales’ distribution may alter in an ocean changing rapidly because of global warming.

Southern right whales were hunted to near extinction, with global numbers falling to as low as 500. By 2009, an estimated 2,200 of the whales were in New Zealand waters, moving between the sub-Antarctic Auckland Islands (Maungahuka) and Campbell Island (Motu Ihupuku), and occasionally around mainland New Zealand including Stewart Island (Rakiura).

Numbers are slowly recovering.

Media contact

Paul Panckhurst | media adviser
M: 022 032 8475