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Stunning drone footage filmed in Australia shows the world’s largest green sea turtle colony making their way to shore to lay eggs.
Queensland researchers used drones to help them more accurately survey the population of the endangered animals, though their methods have the added bonus of producing incredible videos like this one.
The scene shows up to 64,000 endangered turtles travelling to Raine Island, a northern Great Barrier Reef island off far north Queensland.
The colony of breeding animals, known as a rookery, is the largest in the world. Using drones to monitor them has been more effective compared to previous laborious methods, such as spray-painting their backs while they rested on the beach.
Andrew Dunstan, from the Queensland Department of Environment and Science, told 7News:
Trying to accurately count thousands of painted and unpainted turtles from a small boat in rough weather was difficult.
Using a drone is easier, safer, much more accurate, and the data can be immediately and permanently stored.
In the footage, thousands of green sea turtles can be seen making their way through the ocean to the island’s sandy shores. According to National Geographic, green turtles undertake lengthy migrations from their feeding sites to nesting grounds, with mating occurring every two to four years.
Females often choose the same beach as their own mothers to nest on, which may explain why Raine Island is home to so many green turtles. The females dig a pit in the sand with their flippers before filling it with 100 to 200 eggs.
The eggs hatch after about two months, though the most dangerous time in the turtles’ life is when it makes the journey from nest to sea, as during that time it is an exposed target for multiple predators, including crabs and flocks of gulls.
This research is of prime importance to the understanding and management of the vulnerable green turtle population.
In the future, we will be able to automate these counts from video footage using artificial intelligence so the computer does the counting for us.
Green sea turtles are classified as endangered due to the over-harvesting of their eggs and hunting of adults, as well as threats of being caught in fishing gear and loss of nesting beach sites.
According to Queensland.com, tourists can visit the ‘abundance’ of turtles at Raine Island, where they can be seen ‘either sleeping on the bottom or cruising the walls’.
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