Researchers are using drones to film green turtles mating near Queensland’s Heron Island amid concerns over the “feminizing” of populations, a process that’s been linked to climate change.
According to studies cited by the WWF, a bigger proportion of hatching turtles have been found to be female due to the increased nest temperatures. Turtle sex is determined by the nest temperature, and the WWF said higher temperatures, linked to a warming climate, are feminizing the population, reducing the chances for reproduction. “For the past few decades nearly all turtles hatching on Raine Island in the northern Great Barrier Reef are 99% female,” they said.
Researchers were therefore using drones to film green turtles mating off Queensland’s Heron Island to answer a crucial question: exactly how many adult males does a healthy population need?
In a partnership between the WWF, the University of Queensland, and the Conflict Islands Conservation Initiative with funding support from furniture company Koala, researchers have also been conducting a Turtle Cooling Project, they said, where it has been shown that “pouring sea water on a nest can cool eggs enough to generate male hatchlings.”
The footage shows researchers studying the turtles in the water and via drone imagery.
“By analysing drone videos, we will be able to determine the ratio of breeding males to females in a healthy and growing population,” the drone research lead, Melissa Staines, explained.
“This will assist rookery managers to establish if a breeding population is feminizing, prompting action such as seawater irrigation to increase male hatchling production,” she said. Credit: WWF-Australia via Storyful