Drones help scientists monitor turtles off barrier reef

Rodiano Bonacci
Giugno 12, 2020

Green sea turtles are the only herbivorous marine turtle on earth and are thought about an endangered types having actually dealt with poaching, overharvesting of their eggs and loss of beach nesting websites, to name a few obstacles to their survival.

That's why researchers from the Queensland Government Department of Environment and Science (DES) employed the use of drones instead.

The hovering vehicles captured 64,000 green turtles approaching the shore of Raine Island - the world's largest nesting site for the reptiles - located on the outer edge of the Great Barrier Reef, according to a news release.

SYDNEY-The world's largest population of nesting green turtles is almost twice as big as previously thought, scientists said on June 10, after drones enabled better surveys of the animals.

"We sort of became aware that although there's these massive aggregations, the actual reproduction isn't working so well", Dr Andrew Dunstan, from the DES, told CNN, explaining that his team noticed turtles were falling off cliffs, becoming trapped in the heat and suffering flooding in their nests.

"The ratio of unpainted and painted turtles allowed us to estimate the total population for last December to be 64,000 green turtles waiting to nest on the island".

At first, they counted the turtles from their boats.

Researchers had been testing methods of conducting population surveys around the area.

Using drone vision, they were able to analyse each frame in a laboratory, and calculated that the turtles' population had been under-estimated in the past by a factor of 1.73.

"Trying to accurately count thousands of painted and unpainted turtles from a small boat in rough weather was hard", Dr Andrew Dunstan, from the Queensland Department of Environment and Science and lead author of the study, said.

"Using a drone is easier, safer, much more accurate", he said, "and the data can be immediately and permanently stored", the report quoted.

Experts said their calculations proved that the turtles' population had been underestimated in the past.

Green sea turtles are named for the greenish colour of their cartilage and fat and are found mainly in tropical and subtropical waters.

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