• X2
  • Double your Donation

  • University of Exeter matchfunded £500

Helping Killer Whales Survive by Studying Behaviour

The Center for Whale Research, Exeter and York Universities working together

  • £7,500

    pledged of £7,500

    • 51


    • 0


This project received pledges on Sun 09 Oct 2016

Support our research into killer whales and help us to conserve this unique animal!

The Southern Resident killer whales (SRKW) found off the coast of North Western US Pacific  coast live on a knife edge and are at risk of extinction. The population has been listed as endangered since 2005 in the United States and on the “Species at Risk” in Canada since 2003. Two critical questions are - what is causing decreased reproduction and what is causing increased mortality?

Who are we?

My name is Darren Croft, I'm a behavioural ecologist from Exeter University working together with Dan Franks from the University of York and we have had the privilege to be working together with Ken Balcomb and the fantastic team at the Center for Whale Research who have made  observations of killer whales for over 40 years. Together we have analysed this data and already made some important discoveries as published in Current Biology and publicised in Nature : Post-menopausal whales lead the hunt

Why is your support so important ?

Understanding social behaviour is critical to answering the crucial questions about killer whale reproduction and mortality. Just as humans are connected in a social network of family, friends and acquaintances which can predict our lifespan, we have found that killer whale social structure is also key for survival in this critically endangered population. So far, however, we have only scratched the surface and our understanding of the social behaviour of these animals is decades behind our understanding of primate social behaviour.

Tremendous progress has been made in our understanding of killer whale social behaviour by inferring social relationships from the fleeting glimpses of the whales when they surface to breathe. However, the behaviours that underpin these social relationships (e.g. mating, cooperation, aggression) happen under water and are rarely observed.

The major research priority for us is to collect new data that will allow us to record behavioural interactions. We want to do this by using un-manned aerial vehicles (drones) which will revolutionise our understanding of killer whale behaviour by getting a birds eye view of who interacts with whom and how. With this information we can refine our analysis of population viability and future predictions for the health and survival of these amazing animals.  Please help us to fund this vital new technology.

How will we use the money?

We hope to purchase the following kit if we get the support we need:

  • DJI Matrice 600 system.  It is a hexacopter with (6) on-board batteries that give it a maximum flight time of 35 minutes (with 10% battery power reserve utilising the TB48S high capacity batteries).
  • Zenmuse X5 camera - 16 megapixels camera with 7 frame/sec burst mode.
  • The cost of the above is £6,300
  • Total cost of the kit including a spare set of batteries is £7,500.

If we aren't able to raise the full amount we will reduce the spec or buy the kit as separate elements and if we are lucky enough to raise more we will use it to fund additional data collection expenses such as funding boat time.


See the list of rewards for supporting us up on the right hand side

Images and video links

Here's something about the research so far

Here's the team at the Center for Whale Research :

Ken Balcomb, Deborah Giles, David Ellifrit, Erin Heydenreich, Astrid van Ginneken, Lisa Moorby, Melisa Pinnow

Find us here:

 @ASLExeter @CWROrcas


Please help us succeed!

You don't need to give money to help us succeed!

Please share this project with anyone you think would support us – on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, by email, telephone, in a chat over the fence or on your blog.

And we know we said you don't need to give money to help us, but we'd love it if you did! Please sponsor us and help make this happen.

9 months, 2 weeks ago

We hit the target!!

A huge thank you to everyone who supported this fund raising campaign. We secured 100% of the required funding which is just incredible. We have been overwhelmed by the generosity of people and we really look forward to sharing the first of the drone video with you.

We will keep you update on progress with the project.

We will be in contact shortly to arrange the rewards for giving to the project.

A HUGE thank you again for all your help and support

Best Wishes


9 months, 3 weeks ago

97% funded and 24 hours remain

With just 24 hours remaining we have raised an incredible £7,322 this puts us just £178 short of our target.

It has been very touching to see just how generous people have been in giving to this campaign and we really look forward to keeping you all up to date with the progress on the research and to sharing the very first of the drone footage with you all.

Thank you all again for your incredible generosity.

Best Wishes


9 months, 3 weeks ago

Just one day left – we are at 94% of our target!!

We have just one day left now and we are so close to the target. We will be doing all we can to try to make sure that we hit the target.

A HUGE thankyou to all who have contributed both in sponsoring the project and also in sharing the news of the project via social media.

We have been overwhelmed by the response and generosity.

Best Wishes


9 months, 3 weeks ago

90% funded - we are nearly there!

We have had a fantastic response the last few days and we have hit 90% of our target.

We have just 3 days left now and we need £698 to hit our target.

A huge thank you for all your help and support with this project. We have been overwhelmed by the generosity of people giving to this project.

Best Wishes


9 months, 3 weeks ago

Just 4 more days and we are getting close to the target

We have had an amazing week and we have raised a total of £5,597. This is incredible and a huge thank you to everyone who has helped this project either by donating directly and or by spreading the news of our work. 

We have just 4 days left now and we will be doing all we can to try to make sure that we hit the target. 

Best Wishes


9 months, 3 weeks ago

Just one week left

We have just one week left to get the project funded. We are making excellent progress and we currently have over £4500. We have been overwhelmed by the generosity of people giving to this project.

It would be amazing if we can hit our funding target. This population is on the brink of extinction. A drone is going to revolutionise our understanding of key factors that are driving reproductive success and survival in these whales and help to inform future conservation.

Any help you can give in sharing the news of the project over the next week would be very much appreciated.

Many thanks for all your support


10 months ago

Drones reveal how orcas share their food after a group hunt

Have a look at this amazing footage from Norway. Drones will completely change our understanding of these amazing animals.


Just 10 days left now – please spread the word.

Many thanks


10 months ago

Nearly at £4000

A HUGE thank you for all your support. We have nearly reached £4000 which is just incredible. Please do share the news of this project.

Just 11 days to go.


10 months ago

Incredible video

Just found this drone footage of false killer whales hunting. It is just amazing to get a bird’s eye view of these incredible animals.


Drones will transform what we know about marine mammals and we are very excited to start this work on the resident killer whales.

10 months ago

Two weeks left of the funding campaign.

We have had an amazing response and we have raised over 50% of our target. We still have some way to go and we would really appreciate your help in getting people talking about this campaign. If you use social media please share and speak about this project and encourage others to get involved. With your help I really hope that we can get to the target.

I gave a talk at the recent superpod#5 (http://www.orcasuperpod.com/) meeting about the work of the Center for Whale Research and how we have been using this incredible data to look at the evolution of menopause. If you’re interested you can see a video of the talk here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Zj5sUmOHr4

A HUGE thank you for all your help and generosity

Darren Croft

10 months, 2 weeks ago

We are over half way

A huge thank you to everyone that has donated to the project. I am delighted to say that we are now past the halfway mark. This is a fantastic achievement and the result of the tremendous generosity of everyone who has donated. We still have some way to go and anything you can do to promote this project would be very much appreciated. With your help I am sure we can get to the finish line. 

Thank you for getting us this far 

Best Wishes 

Darren Croft 

11 months, 1 week ago

Thanks to everyone for their fantastic support and amazing generosity.  We hit our minimum funding in the first week no doubt helped by the radio coverage- both national (UK) and local radio too. In addition to the BBC Radio 4 piece http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07mxv62 with several audio clips and a link to the programme there was also a good BBC News magazine piece http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-37025092  with film clips (entitled “What can killer whales teach us about the menopause?). 

Please share the news and thanks again for your help!

Alan Denbigh on behalf of Darren Croft at Exeter University

Only project creators and their sponsors can post comments.

No comments have been posted yet.

University of Exeter matchfunded £500

Darren Croft

generated 2173 clicks and caused 7 donations totalling £235.00


generated 148 clicks and donated

Ali Barratt

generated 125 clicks and donated


generated 95 clicks and donated

Katie Wade

generated 84 clicks


generated 81 clicks and donated


generated 70 clicks and donated

Andrew Luck-Baker

generated 64 clicks


generated 59 clicks


generated 48 clicks


generated 31 clicks and donated


generated 3 clicks and donated


donated £200.00

Susan Anderegg

donated £128.00


donated £50.00


donated £50.00

Hans Henrik Sievertsen

donated £30.00

Karli Watson

donated £25.00

Orca S※O※S

donated £20.00


donated £15.00

Betina Winkler

donated £10.00


donated £10.00


donated £1.00

Courtney Smith


Oscar Struijve




Christina Price


Lee O'Toole


Brenda Peterson


Ronan Le Bras


Serina Shin


Ralitsa Padalska

followed this project and signed up to help

15 anonymous donations totalling £2426.00