Stunning drone footage shows more than 60,000 green turtles heading ashore to nest

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  • June 9, 2020
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This sweeping drone footage captures the journey of 64,000 green turtles as they head ashore to lay their eggs.

The video, captured by scientists in Australia, shows the endangered reptiles approaching the world’s largest green turtle nesting area at Raine Island on the Great Barrier Reef.

The turtles migrate long distances between feeding grounds and the beaches on which they emerge as hatchlings.

The breed is under threat due to hunting, loss of nesting sites, overharvesting of their eggs and becoming trapped in nets and other fishing equipment.

Green turtles are endangered owing to overharvesting of their eggs, hunting and fishing (Universal Images Group via Getty)

After introducing a series of measures to help the struggling creatures, scientists sought to track the growth of their population.

Previously researchers had to mark the turtles’ shells with non-toxic white paint while they gathered on the beach and then wait for them to return to the water.

But attempting to count the animals from boats proved tricky and inefficient.

“Trying to accurately count thousands of painted and unpainted turtles from a small boat in rough weather was difficult,” Dr Andrew Dunstan from the Queensland Department of Environment and Science explained.

“Using a drone is easier, safer, much more accurate, and the data can be immediately and permanently stored.”

Tens of thousands of turtles could be counted thanks to the drone technology (Queensland Department of Environment and Science)

Dr Dunstan is one the lead researchers investigating the best way to count all the turtles at the Raine Island nesting area.

He and his team found that drones offered the most effective survey method, while underwater filming using a Go-Pro was a useful alternative to in-water surveys.

Richard Fitzpatrick from the Biopixel Oceans Foundation, who is also working on the project hailed the technological development, saying: “What previously took a number of researchers a long time can now be done by one drone operator in under an hour.”

Dr Dunstan said the Raine Island Recovery Project is making a major contribution to the future sustainability of the world’s most important green turtle rookery.

“This research is of prime importance to the understanding and management of the vulnerable green turtle population,” he said.

“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.”