Australian researchers release footage of 64,000 endangered turtles nesting near Great Barrier Reef

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At least 64,000 endangered green turtles were spotted on and around Raine Island in the Great Barrier Reef late last year.

Drone footage taken in December 2019 helped scientists working on the Raine Island Recovery Project to count the number of green turtles that gathered to nest on Raine Island - the largest rookery, or nesting place, in the world for these animals – the Queensland Department of Environment and Science said.

Lead researcher Dr Andrew Dunstan said aerial footage, along with the use of nontoxic paint to mark the turtles, has been the "most efficient survey method" for counting the turtles.

Previous methods, such as observation from boats, resulted in inaccuracies.

"When we compared drone counts to observer counts we found that we had underestimated the numbers in the past by a factor of 1.73," said Biopixel Oceans Foundation researcher Richard Fitzpatrick, adding that the drones also allowed for the work to be completed more quickly.

In the press release, researchers said the 2019 total shows the largest population of green turtles since the start of the Raine Island Recovery Project.