The world’s largest colony of green sea turtles was captured in spectacular drone footage while making its way towards nesting ground in Australia.
Researchers from Queensland used drones so they could accurately analyze and examine the population of endangered animals, as UNILAD reveals.
Recently, the footage from the drones has shown an incredible phenomenon. It displays up to 64,000 endangered turtles traveling to Raine Island, a northern Great Barrier Reef island off far north Queensland.
This colony of breeding sea turtles, also known as a rookery, is believed to be the largest on Earth. The drone method is proving to be much more effective, compared to previous laborious strategies, such as spray-painting the turtles’ backs while they’re resting on the beach.
In an interview with 7News, Andrew Dunstan from the Queensland Department of Environment and Science explained:
“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.”
The breathtaking drone footage shows thousands of green sea turtles making their way through the ocean to the island’s sandy shores.
As National Geographic describes, green turtles undertake lengthy migrations from feeding sites to nesting grounds and mate every two to four years. It is common for the females to choose the same beach as their own mothers to nest on. This may explain why Raine Island is home to the largest green turtle rookery.
After the female chooses the right spot for her baby turtles, she digs a pit in the sand with her flippers, before filling it with 100 to 200 eggs. Then, the eggs hatch for about two months. When the newborns break their shells, the most dangerous time in their life begins, as they need to find their way from their nest to the sea. During that period, the baby turtles are exposed to multiple predators, including crabs and flocks of gulls.
Andrew Dunstan believes their research is of ‘prime importance’ to the understanding of the population of green sea turtles. He stated:
“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 turtles are listed as an endangered species due to the over-harvesting of their eggs and hunting of adults. They are also at high risk of being caught in fishing gear and loss of nesting beach sites.
Raine Island, hosting the largest green turtle rookery in the world, can be visited by tourists, as Tourism and Events Queensland claims. There, visitors can see the stunning colony ‘either sleeping on the bottom or cruising the walls’.