In the midst of the coronavirus and subsequent quarantine, there are still beautiful sights to behold across the world, especially within nature. Recently, amazing aerial footage was released showing thousands of green turtles migrating along the edge of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef during nesting season. The video and story behind these animals are too interesting not to share!
An Astonishing Sight
Australian researchers at the Queensland Government’s Department of Environment and Science (DES) were able to record the stunning sight near the Great Barrier Reef. Tens of thousands of green turtles were spotted migrating near the reef for nesting season. Green turtles are typically found in tropical and subtropical waters, and they typically take these long trips between the feeding grounds and the nesting beaches where they themselves first hatched.
These green turtles were all headed to lay eggs at Raine Island, a coral cay near Cairns in Queensland. Raine Island is the biggest green turtle rookery in the world. For these researchers, they were not surprised to see a large number of turtles rolling into the island. However, using a new method of counting these turtles helped them to get a more accurate number and was also safer for these animals.
A Safer Method
The scientists watching over these turtles used drones to record the turtles migrating to Raine Island. With the drone, they found they had underestimated the number of green turtles that migrate each year to the island by 50 percent. “We were underestimating that a lot. We’re finding 1.73 times as many turtles with the drone when we directly compare with the observer counts,” Dr. Andrew Dunstan from the DES said in an interview with CNN. Approximately 64,000 green turtles were counted using the drones.
Prior to making the decision to use drones, researchers would count and physically mark turtles with non-toxic paint as they arrived at the beach. For this migration, the team used drones as well as old methods of underwater video and observers on boats to see which method would be better for future research. The drone method worked best. “What previously took a number of researchers a long time can now be by one drone operator in under an hour,” said researcher Richard Fitzpatrick from the Biopixel Oceans Foundation. Using the drones was not only the most effective way of getting a more accurate count but, they were also found to be much safer and less disruptive to the turtles.
Improving The Environment
Though the researchers have found a safer method of tracking green turtles in Queensland, that doesn’t mean that the turtles are completely safe. These turtles are actually a vulnerable species in the area. They are hunted for their flesh and eggs and also fall victim to fishing nets and discarded plastic. Even on the island, turtles can fall off of mini cliffs at the cay or die from extreme heat exhaustion. Sadly, up to 2,000 adult turtles die on the island every year.
However, the DES is taking action to help better protect these beautiful creatures that make their way to Raine Island. The organization plans to “improve and rebuild the island’s nesting beaches and [build] fences to prevent turtle deaths, all … to strengthen the island’s resilience and ensure the survival of our northern green turtles and many other species,” according to a statement. The Raine Island Recovery Project has been established to assist in this effort by installing fencing to keep adult turtles safe and by adding sand to the beaches to raise them high enough to avoid being overpowered by waves. Hopefully, these and other methods work to keep these turtles alive and well. In the meantime, it is still breathtaking to watch these magnificent animals migrate to this island instinctively.
Watch the incredible footage below!
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