Vanessa Bézy, a biologist who has been studying the sea turtles for years now, managed to capture this amazing video
Sea turtles are rare creatures who are also shy and humans ever hardly ever get to see them. Due to their calm and harmless demeanor, they also fall prey to poachers whenever they are spotted. They mostly keep to themselves and remain underwater most of the time, making them elusive and hard to study. The chances of us being able to catch a glimpse of a sea turtle are very slim. Let alone dozens of them in their natural habitat. But thanks to the advancement of technology, we now have an opportunity to witness things that would otherwise be almost impossible.
Sea turtles are known to lay eggs on the beachside. At Costa Rica’s Ostional National Wildlife Refuge, hundreds of thousands of female sea turtles arrive almost every month to lay their eggs on the beach. They often arrive within a few days of each other, reported National Geographic. Vanessa Bézy is a biologist who has been studying this phenomenon and the turtles, mostly Olive Ridley sea turtles, for many years now. As part of her study, Bézy whipped out a drone and decided to capture the turtles at sea. Much to her surprise, she managed to capture a rare sight of a swarm of thousands of turtles swimming together.
“I immediately knew there was something special going on,” Bézy said of the video that she shot of the turtle swarm in November 2016. “To this day I’m still blown away by the video. They look like bumper cars out there.” The video explained how on the day the video was shot, there was an equivalent of about 5,000 sea turtles within the area of a football field, covering a total area of more than 1,000 football fields. And this was excluding the turtles below the surface. The following year, Bézy and colleagues even went on to publish a paper in Nature, after conducting a pilot study on using drones as a means to monitor sea turtle population numbers, reported Science Alert.
The study found that an estimated population density of 1299 -2086 turtles per square kilometer at peak gatherings near the shore. The pilot study illustrated how unmanned aerial systems (UAS) can be used to "conduct robust, safe, and cost-effective population assessments of sea turtle populations in coastal marine ecosystems." The study also went on to highlight the feasibility of using UAS for conducting large-scale population assessments in remote locations. "The approach described in the present study can greatly enhance our knowledge of the density of sea turtles in nearshore waters, improve population assessments, and ultimately benefit sea turtle conservation at larger scales," it stated.
“This is the only time I’ve seen a video capturing this phenomenon in the water,” Roldán Valverde, scientific director of the Florida-based Sea Turtle Conservancy and a biologist at Southeastern Louisiana University told National Geographic. “Most of the photography documenting this occurs on the beach.” The Olive Ridley sea turtles are listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), as a vulnerable species. Many conservation programs have helped recover the population over the years, especially the ones caused by human activities. But illegal harvesting of eggs is still very prevalent.
However, the mass aggregations are a vital part of their life cycle, according to Bézy. She stated, "It’s an enigmatic natural phenomenon. We don’t know how the turtles coordinate this and why." She has expressed her hope that the public will care more about the turtles after seeing her stunning video. “Everybody I’ve shown this video has an emotional response,” she said and added that she hoped more people will support protecting the areas where the turtles gather.