Mass Gathering of Green Turtles
Stunning drone footage reveals more than 60,000 green turtles heading for their rookery on Raine Island in the northern tip of the Great Barrier Reef. The aerial survey confirms this to be the largest known nesting site for the endangered species.
Scientists estimate that the footage shows as many as 64,000 green turtles around the island waiting to come ashore to lay their clutches of eggs.
This is almost twice as many green sea turtles coming in to lay eggs as previously believed.
Dr Andrew Dunstan, from the Australian Department of Environment and Science, said researchers in the past had been using counts from observers.
'We were underestimating that a lot," Dr Dunstan said.
This year they used drones to survey the turtles after a number of those nesting had been painted with white stripes. They then extrapolated the total number from the ratio of painted turtles to non-painted in the drone footage.
'We're finding 1.73 times as many turtles with the drone and as we do when we directly compare with observer counts.'
Great Barrier Reef Foundation managing director Anna Marsden said: 'We’re seeing the world’s largest aggregation of green turtles captured in these extraordinary drone images, which are helping to document the largest turtle numbers seen since we began the Raine Island Recovery Project.
'Raine Island is the world’s largest green turtle nesting site and that’s why we’re working with our Raine Island Recovery Project partners to protect and restore the island’s critical habitat.'