Stunning drone footage captures 64,000 turtles nesting at the Great Barrier Reef

Stunning aerial footage shows 64,000 turtles nesting at the edge of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Scientists from the Queensland Government’s Department of Environment and Science (DES) used a drone to record the largest green turtle gathering at Raine Island. 

Unfortunately, scientists weren’t satisfied with the level of reproduction from the endangered species. Despite thousands of the animal returning to the island for nesting season, a loss of nests due to flooding and inhospitable terrain disrupted the breeding.

The scientists used drones to track the population. The researchers marked each turtle’s shell with a non-toxic paint stripe. But when counting from a boat proved futile, they opted for filming them.

“Using a drone is easier, safer, much more accurate and the data can be immediately and permanently stored,” Dr. Andrew Dunstan, senior research scientist, said, according to CNN.

Drones proved to be more successful when the scientists realized they were undercounting the turtles with previous methods. 

“We were underestimating that a lot. 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.

Numerous existential threats endanger green turtles who often become entangled in fishing gear, get trapped in boats or are forced to ingest deadly marine plastics. Feral animals also attack their nests with hatchlings. The turtles who survive early on then face disorientation by lights, people and vehicles. Thus, Queensland scientists are using their research to develop programs to help the species survive. 

If you liked this story, check out this adorable baby sea turtle venture out for its first swim.

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