(TMU) – Researchers in Australia have captured stunning aerial footage of thousands of green turtles gathering on the Great Barrier Reef at the height of nesting season.
Every year, masses of the creatures make their way to the largest green turtle rookery in the world at Raine Island, a coral cay rich in vegetation that lies about 385 miles (620 km.) northwest of Cairns in Queensland, Australia.
Australian Geographic estimates that some 64,000 female green turtles migrate thousands of kilometers every year to lay their eggs at the island.
The latest footage, captured using a drone by the Queensland Government’s Department of Environment and Science (DES), could be one of the biggest turtle swarms ever observed.
Drone footage shows the largest remaining breeding ground for green turtles in the world. The video revealed up to 64,000 turtles swimming around Australia's Great Barrier Reef during nesting season. https://t.co/wVqw0ZFjur pic.twitter.com/kTQwXAQIbZ
— CNN (@CNN) June 9, 2020
The majestic green turtle is widely distributed across the world’s tropical and subtropical waters, and gets its name from the verdant deep green color of its cartilage and fat. The green turtle is one of the largest and the only herbivorous marine turtle, and thrives in the Reef due to its protected shores near the coast and around islands, according to conservationist group WWF-Australia.
However, despite the massive number of green turtles seen in the video footage, the creature is considered endangered due to the threat of hunting, overharvesting of eggs, the degradation of marine habitats and their loss of beach nesting sites. They also are frequently trapped by fishing boats.
“Marine turtles have roamed the world’s oceans for more than 100 million years, and are an integral part of our tropical coastal ecosystems,” WWF-Australia wrote on its website. “It’s taken humans just 200 years to tip the scales against their survival and these ancient mariners are now considered endangered or vulnerable.”
Despite their wide geographical distribution, only a few large nesting populations still exist, and Raine Island in the northern Great Barrier Reef is the largest among them.
However, scientists remain concerned that they are not reproducing at the expected rate primarily due to inhospitable terrain causing them to fall from cliffs or get trapped in the heat, as well as suffering flooding in their nests.
“We sort of became aware that although there’s these massive aggregations, the actual reproduction isn’t working so well,” Dr. Andrew Dunstan of the DES told CNN.
The researchers have been intervening to assist the green turtle population while also tracking them. They found that Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or drones had the best capabilities in terms of documenting the ancient mariners.
Researchers initially tried to pain the turtles’ shells with a white stripe of non-toxic paint, but they found that drones were far easier and more accurate when it came to tracking the sea creatures.
“Trying to accurately count thousands of painted and unpainted turtles from a small boat in rough weather was difficult. Using a drone is easier, safer, much more accurate, and the data can be immediately and permanently stored,” said in a statement.
The use of the drones showed that the 64,000 green turtles that swarmed to the island were a much a higher number than they had ever guessed – forcing them to revise their historic population estimates.
“We were underestimating that a lot. We’re finding 1.73 times as many turtles with the drone and as we do when we directly compare with the observer counts,” Dunstan added.
In the future, researchers how to use the results to further tweak their methods of managing and tracking the turtle population. They also hope to introduce artificial intelligence that can automate the counting of the creatures using the footage captured by drone.
Dolphin Swims Through Louisiana Neighborhood in Aftermath of Hurricane Ida
A Louisiana family was shocked to find a dolphin swimming through their neighborhood in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.
Amanda Huling and her family were assessing the damage to their neighborhood in Slidell, Louisiana, when they noticed the dolphin swimming through the inundated suburban landscape.
In video shot by Huling, the marine mammal’s dorsal fin can be seen emerging from the water.
“The dolphin was still there as of last night but I am in contact with an organization who is going to be rescuing it within the next few days if it is still there,” Huling told FOX 35.
Ida slammed into the coast of Louisiana this past weekend. The Category 4 hurricane ravaged the power grid of the region, plunging residents of New Orleans and upwards of 1 million homes and businesses in Louisiana and Mississippi into the dark for an indefinite period of time.
Officials have warned that the damage has been so extensive that it could take weeks to repair the power grid, reports Associated Press.
Also in Slidell, a 71-year-old man was attacked by an alligator over the weekend while he was in his flooded shed. The man went missing and is assumed dead, reports WDSU.
Internet users began growing weary last year about the steady stream of stories belonging to a “nature is healing” genre, as people stayed indoors and stories emerged about animals taking back their environs be it in the sea or in our suburbs.
However, these latest events are the surreal realities of a world in which extreme weather events are fast becoming the new normal – disrupting our lives in sometimes predictable, and occasionally shocking and surreal, ways.
Mom in LA Suburbs Fights Off Mountain Lion With Bare Hands, Rescues 5-Year-Old Son
A mother in Southern California is being hailed as a hero after rescuing her five-year-old son from an attacking mountain lion.
The little boy was playing outside his home in Calabasas, a city lying west of Los Angeles in the Santa Monica Mountains, when the large cat pounced on him.
The 65-pound (30 kg) mountain lion dragged the boy about 45 yards across the front lawn before the mother acted fast, running out and striking the creature with her bare hands and forcing it to free her son.
“The true hero of this story is his mom because she absolutely saved her son’s life,” California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Captain Patrick Foy told Associated Press on Saturday.
“She ran out of the house and started punching and striking the mountain lion with her bare hands and got him off her son,” Foy added.
The boy sustained significant injuries to his head, neck and upper torso, but is now in stable condition at a hospital in Los Angeles, according to authorities.
The mountain lion was later located and killed by an officer with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, who found the big cat crouching in the bushes with its “ears back and hissing” at the officer shortly after he arrived at the property.
“Due to its behavior and proximity to the attack, the warden believed it was likely the attacking lion and to protect public safety shot and killed it on sight,” the wildlife department noted in its statement.
The mountain lion attack is the first such attack on a human in Los Angeles County since 1995, according to Fish and Wildlife.
The Santa Monica Mountains is a biodiverse region teeming with wildlife such as large raptors, mountain lions, bears, coyote, deer, lizards, and snakes. However, their numbers have rapidly faded in recent years, causing local wildlife authorities to find new ways to manage the region’s endemic species.
Blue Whales Return to Spain’s Coast After Disappearing for 40 Years
Blue whales have been returning to the Atlantic coast of Spain after an absence of over 40 years in the region, when whaling industries drove the species to the brink of extinction.
Blue whales, which are the world’s largest mammals, had long disappeared from the region until the recent sightings.
The first was spotted off the coast of Galicia near Ons Island by marine biologist Bruno Díaz, who heads the Bottlenose Dolphin Research.
Another one of the majestic creatures was spotted the following year in 2018 and yet another in 2019. In 2020, two whales again made their return to the area.
It remains unclear as of yet as to why the creatures have returned to the area, but controls on local whaling industries are believed to play a role.
“I believe the moratorium on whaling has been a key factor,” Díaz remarked, according to the Guardian. “In the 1970s, just before the ban was introduced, an entire generation of blue whales disappeared. Now, more than 40 years later, we’re seeing the return of the descendants of the few that survived.”
Whaling had been a traditional industry in Galicia for hundreds of years before Spain finally acted to ban whaling in 1986, long after the blue whale’s presence in the region had faded away.
Some fear that the return of the massive sea mammals is a sign of global warming.
“I’m pessimistic because there’s a high possibility that climate change is having a major impact on the blue whale’s habitat,” said marine biologist Alfredo López in comments to La Voz de Galicia.
“Firstly, because they never venture south of the equator, and if global warming pushes this line north, their habitat will be reduced,” he continued “And secondly, if it means the food they normally eat is disappearing, then what we’re seeing is dramatic and not something to celebrate.”
Díaz said that while the data certainly supports this theory, it is too early to determine climate as the precise cause.
“It is true that the data we have points to this trend [climate change] but it is not enough yet,” he told Público news.
Another possibility is that the ancestral memory of the old creatures or even a longing for their home may offer an explanation, according to Díaz.
“In recent years it’s been discovered that the blue whale’s migration is driven by memory, not by environmental conditions,” he said. “This year there hasn’t been a notable increase in plankton, but here they are. Experiences are retained in the collective memory and drive the species to return.”
In recent years, researchers have found that migratory patterns are also driven by the cultural knowledge existing in many groups of species.
Researchers believe this type of folk memory, or cultural knowledge, exists in many species and is key to their survival.
A typical blue whale is 20-24 metres long and weighs 120 tonnes – equivalent to 16 elephants – but specimens of up to 30 metres and 170 tonnes have been found.