China 2021-07-18T04:04:47+03:00
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Aussie scientists use drones to study sea cows

Aussie scientists use drones to study sea cows

sea, China, Scientists, Animal, Western Australia, Dugong
Dugong in the lagoons in New Caledonia, Australia. Australian marine researchers are using drones to locate and study one of nature's shyest animals – dugongs. Photo by Matthieu Juncker/Xinhua.
Dugong in the lagoons in New Caledonia, Australia. Australian marine researchers are using drones to locate and study one of nature's shyest animals – dugongs. Photo by Matthieu Juncker/Xinhua.

Australian marine researchers are using drones to locate and study one of nature's shyest animals dugongs, informed The Xinhua News Agency.

The placid marine mammals, also known as sea cows, chew their way through about 30 to 50 kg of seagrass in remote "meadows" off the coast of the Pilbara region in Western Australia (WA), but the population of them had been hard to monitor by boat.

Marine ecological scientists Amanda Hodgson and Christophe Cleguer from the Harry Butler Institute of Murdoch University in WA are at the forefront of the surveillance work.

"It actually allows us to get fine scale information about where the dugongs are. Being able to repeat surveys at different times of the day, different tides and seasonally provides us with a lot more detailed information than we could get in the past", Hodgson told the Australian Broadcasting Company.

Dugong in the lagoons. Photo by Xinhua.

"To help conserve dugongs, we need to understand where their important habitat areas are, so we can push for their protection and we need to gain an understanding of whether their numbers are increasing or decreasing."

On average, a three-week research trip can involve 90 aerial survey flights and generate about 25,000 images of the notoriously reclusive creatures.

Working with Frederic Maire from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT), the duo has developed an algorithm to sift through thousands of images.

Cleguer told Xinhua on Tuesday that he was "very hands-on with the surveys" and was keen to spread the drone technology to researchers in the other 45 tropic and subtropic countries near dugong populations.

"We hope that the research work using this new technology will fast-track the conservation of dugongs and their seagrass habitats", – he said.

Dugong in the lagoons. Photo by Xinhua.

He said it was important to know more about dugongs because they act as a bellwether for the overall ecosystem. Seagrass meadows with dugongs are healthy, which provide a habitat for other sea life and play an important role in sustaining clean seawater and safeguarding coasts from erosion.

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