Fake turtle eggs with GPS help track poaching

A clutch of young sea turtles on the beach in Central America. Credit: Paso Pacifico

Researchers executed a bait-and-switch maneuver by placing 3D-printed turtle eggs in the clutches of real sea turtle eggs to capture poachers in Costa Rica. The researchers placed 101 fake eggs, called InvestEggators, in the nests of green (Chelonia mydas) and olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) sea turtles in four beaches. Poachers picked up 25 of the fake eggs, though poachers quickly identified six of them and left them on the beach. The team received tracking data from three olive ridley fakes and two green sea turtle fakes, showing that the farthest one traveled was 137 kilometers inland to an alley behind a supermarket. The egg’s final signal was sent from a residential home, suggesting the researchers had identified the full market chain. The researchers emphasized that the study wasn’t so much about catching poachers who likely lived in poverty as identifying hot spots for trading that could be stopped.

Read more at Science.