Aussie Drone Captures 64,000 Turtles Swimming Through the Great Barrier Reef

Aussie Drone Captures 64,000 Turtles Swimming Through the Great Barrier Reef”

Researchers in Australia were able to capture incredible footage of the world's largest group of nesting turtles.

NT News has reported that researchers at the island used a drone to count how many green turtles were in the area.

Scientists from Queensland Government's Department of Environment and Science filmed the animals off Raine Island.

Drone footage taken by Australian researchers has captured tens of thousands of sea turtles nesting on an island near the Great Barrier Reef, providing a more accurate assessment of their numbers. In a paper published in highly respected PLOS ONE journal, Dr Andrew Dunstan of DES explained how their research combines science and technology to more effectively count endangered green turtles. They are known to travel great distances to migrate between feeding and nesting grounds.

At first, they counted the turtles from their boats.

"The ratio of unpainted and painted turtles allowed us to estimate the total population for last December to be 64,000 green turtles waiting to nest on the island".

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Previously, researchers would paint a non-toxic white stripe down the turtles' shells and would count them that way.

Researchers hope in the future to automate the counts from video footage, using artificial intelligence so the computer does the counting for them, the report said.

"Trying to accurately count thousands of painted and unpainted turtles from a small boat in rough weather was hard", Dr Dunstan said. They then chose to use drones to film the creatures for better accuracy. Using a drone is easier, safer, much more accurate, and the data can be immediately and permanently stored.

"We're finding 1.73 times as many turtles with the drone and as we do when we directly compare with the observer counts", Dunstan told CNN.

The foundation's five-year, $7.95 million Raine Island Recovery Project seeks to restore the vital green turtle rookery.

Found off the coasts of 140 countries, green turtles are considered threatened or endangered, depending on where they live, under the Endangered Species Act, according to Monterey Bay Aquarium. The biggest threats to their survival are overharvesting of their eggs, loss of nesting beach sites, hunting, and being caught in fishing nets.

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