Piloting the future of whale conservation from the skies


The southern right whale is a playful beast. Despite their imposing size – adults can grow up to 18 metres in length – they are known for their curious and calm nature, often giving boats a gentle nudge when sneaking a peek at whale-watchers on board. But soon this may be a rare occurrence. Only found in the southern oceans, the species is endangered. Their main food source, krill, is decreasing due to climate change. Photographer Morgan Mulholland is using a novel aerial perspective to bring the whale’s plight to the fore.

While still a photography student at Stellenbosch Academy of Design & Photography, Mulholland entered the Sony World Photography Awards. The challenge was to create images in response to the Parley for the Oceans Foundation, an organisation that encourages creatives to use their imagination for conservation purposes. Using a drone, Mulholland captured the southern right whale in our African seas, floating to the surface and displaying their distinctive black and white markings. His photos and video footage have an intimate quality to them that serve to remind us of our impact and ability to save these ocean giants.

His photography is shortlisted by Sony for the 2018 student focus award, but winning is not Mulholland’s main objective. “I feel that such a big part of Africa and South Africa is the nature. It’s so important to protect that for future generations,” Mulholland says. “I hope that when South Africans are faced with the beauty of nature they’ll become more aware of the steps we should take to preserve it.”