Drone Footage Captures Rare Moment of Endangered North Atlantic Right Whales 'Hugging'

Researchers spotted the critically endangered North Atlantic right whales on a recent trip to Cape Cod Bay, Massachusetts.

Hugging isn't just a land activity.

In recently released footage from a February research trip conducted in Cape Cod Bay, Massachusetts by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), the New England Aquarium, the Conservation Law Foundation, and National Geographic photographer Brian Skerry, two endangered North Atlantic right whales appear to share a hug.

The two whales in the clip — which Skerry and Steve De Neef captured on camera using a drone — are part of a surface active group, also known as a SAG. SAGs are desirable sights for researchers since they "are known to involve close interactions between groups of right whales, that may include playful, reproductive, and vocal behavior," according to release about the research trip.

"While flying drones to measure their body condition, researchers saw what appeared to be whales hugging with their flippers, technically described as 'belly to belly' perhaps showing affection and attempts at mating," the release added about the clip.

Researchers are looking forward to learning from the footage they captured on the trip and are eager to share their "hugging" clip with the world since so much of the news surrounding right whales is negative.

Whales hugging
brian skerry/national geographic; steve de neef

There are less than 100 female right whales capable of raising calves left globally, and only about 360 right whales left in total. The marine mammals are considered critically endangered, per the release, and often make the news because of ship collisions and net entanglements.

Along with capturing the rare whales peacefully hugging, the trip's researchers also filmed the animals eating plankton and nursing calves.

Animal lovers can learn even more about the amazing information this research trip uncovered in Sarah Gibbens's NatGeo.com article about the excursion.

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