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Keywords:

  • Hector's dolphin;
  • body length measurement;
  • close range photogrammetry

Dolphins are agile animals and are very difficult to measure at sea. However, for the conservation of threatened or endangered species, measurement may be vital because it allows a demographic analysis of the population. Hector's dolphin (Cephalorhynchus hectori) is a rare species living only in coastal waters around New Zealand where it is studied from small boats. This paper describes a stereophotogrammetric technique developed to measure body length accurately at sea without having to capture the individual. Constant calibration with the use of a control frame allowed accurate body length measurements of dolphins to be made with this low cost system, with a measurement error of 4 per cent to 6 per cent of actual length.