Decoy Sean Turtle Eggs Being Used to Track Poachers

18 Jun 2018

Turtle nesting season is the U.S. is in full swing as turtles make their ways onto the nation’s beaches to lay their eggs. Depending on the area, it begins between March and May, and extends through October when the last of the baby sea turtles make their way to the ocean. Various threats endanger sea turtles nesting and nests, including humans, ocean water, other wildlife predators, and even poachers.

Sea turtle nests in Central America are in constant danger. In fact, poachers destroy around 90 percent of sea turtle nests. They then sell the eggs through illegal wildlife trade. In some countries, bars and restaurants serve the eggs as a delicacy item.

Paso Pacifico researchers have come up with a decoy sea turtle egg that they place in the nests with real eggs. Paso Pacifico is a Nicaragua based conservation group. They refer to the fake egg as the InvestEGGator. The egg is equipped with GPS tracking allowing researchers to map out the egg’s location in real-time while giving authorities information on the main smuggling routes.

A 3-D printer is used to make the fake eggs using a material that imitates the feel and look of a soft real sea turtle egg. In order to get the details as perfect as possible, researchers worked closely with experts of Hollywood special effects. To protect the GPS tracking device, waterproof silicon seals the eggs.

The GPS tracking device connects to a cellular network allowing the egg to transmit where it’s located as it continues traveling and crossing borders. While cellular network availability determines the ability of the egg to ping its location, researchers don’t feel as if it’s a huge drawback.

The team placed the egg on one Nicaragua beach to test it. They will, however, begin testing throughout Central American coastal sites soon.

The team won $100,000 towards expanding their project and was awarded the USAID Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge Acceleration Prize for the technology.

Benefits of GPS Tracking

GPS tracking devices have been helping researchers conduct successful studies for many years now. GPS wildlife tracking helps scientific researchers, conservation agencies or biologists remotely observe the migratory patterns or relatively fine-scale movement of wild animals.

Using the GPS-based data, researchers can map wildlife’s’ home ranges, distributions and migration patterns. Researchers also use computer algorithms that use the species’ previous behavior so they can identify “typical” movement patterns. Having access to real-time data, researchers can recognize when animals move in “abnormal” patterns (based on algorithms) and this data can help them detect potential injuries or illegal poaching events they can facilitate a quick response to.

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