Drone footage showing the migration of 64,000 green sea turtles on Raine Island has blown previous estimates on how many of these creatures come ashore to lay eggs out of the water. Researchers from Queensland's Department of Environment and Science (DES) gathered the footage as part of an effort to conduct population surveys for the Raine Island Recovery Project. Raine Island, located on the outer edges of the Great Barrier Reef, is the biggest green turtle rookery in the world.
Green sea turtles have to come ashore to breathe, and are often hunted along with their eggs. The researchers' footage, captured in December, shows thousands of these turtles around the island, waiting to lay their eggs.
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Andrew Dunstan, lead author of the paper, said in a release that new scientific research from this week found drones were the most efficient way to conduct turtle population surveys. Previous methods of painting a white stripe down a turtle's shell while it nests on the beach and then counting painted and non-painted turtles from a boat weren't as effective or accurate.
"Using a drone is easier, safer, much more accurate, and the data can be immediately and permanently stored," Dunstan said.
"This research is of prime importance to the understanding and management of the vulnerable green turtle population," he added. "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."
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