WATCH: Aerial footage of 64 000 turtles converging on Aussie island

Australian marine scientists have released remarkable footage showing 60 000-plus sea turtles gathering on the Great Barrier Reef as they wait to go ashore and lay their eggs.

The green sea turtles go each year to the remote Raine Island, about 600km northeast of the Queensland city of Cairns, and in recent years conservation efforts have seen their numbers grow significantly.

However, trying to accurately count tens of thousands moving turtles from a moving boat in the sometimes turbulent ocean is not a simple task. So at the end of last year the scientists from the Queensland Government’s Department of Environment and Science embraced modern drone technology to help them gather the data.

The idea worked, a new scientific paper has just been published detailing the findings, and nature-lovers around the world have been treated to spectacular aerial visuals of an estimated 64 000 turtles gathering around the island.

View the footage here:

Named for greenish colour of their cartilage and fat

Green sea turtles are named for the greenish colour of their cartilage and fat and are found mainly in tropical and subtropical waters. They will travel significant distances as they migrate between their feeding and nesting grounds.

The green sea turtle is classified as an endangered species by the Red List of Threatened Species published by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The biggest threats to the population are overharvesting of their eggs, loss of nesting beach sites, hunting and being caught in fishing nets.

Although precise population numbers are unknown, it is believed there are between 85 000 and 90 000 nesting females alive today, based on nesting beach monitoring reports tracked by the Sea Turtle Conservancy.

According to the National Wildlife Federation, nesting occurs in over 80 countries. There are populations with different colourings and markings in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific oceans.

Largest remaining green turtle nesting location

Raine Island is considered to be the largest remaining green turtle nesting location in the world and is a protected national park not accessible to the public. The Raine Island Recovery Project is working to protect and restore the island’s green sea turtle habitat.

Scientists with a turtle on Raine Island. Photo credit: Great Barrier Reef Foundation

“We’re seeing the world’s largest aggregation of green turtles captured in these extraordinary drone images that are helping to document the largest turtle numbers seen since we began the Raine Island Recovery Project,” Great Barrier Reef Foundation Managing Director, Anna Marsden, said.

“This important research combines science and technology to more effectively count endangered green turtles.”

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