Each year, thousands of turtles come together on the beaches of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef to lay their eggs. Last year’s footage of the event was released by Queensland’s Department of Environment and Science (DES) yesterday and it’s spectacular. The scientists used a drone to capture video of over 64,000 green turtles congregating at Raine Island, a coral cay about 385 miles northwest of Cairns.
Green turtles gravitate toward the tropical and subtropical waters surrounding Australia and some parts of the Mediterranean. They choose a remote environment with a favorable climate to ensure the protection of their young. Once mature, the turtles usually return to their own birthplace to hatch, even if they haven’t been in the area in over 30 years.
Raine Island is home to the largest green turtle rookery on the planet, but the numbers are dwindling. Last year, green turtles reproduced less due to their environment becoming more inhospitable. The flooding of nests and the danger of being trapped in fishing equipment also pose serious threats to the species.
Counting the tens of thousands of turtles that congregated last year was no easy feat. The Australian researchers marked each turtle shell with white, non-toxic paint while on the beach, and attempted to count them from a boat. The task proved difficult and the results were inaccurate, so they resorted to using drones.
“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,” Dr. Andrew Dunstan, senior researcher at DES, said in a statement. The research will help scientists understand, manage, and protect the green turtle population more efficiently in the future.