Monday, March 1, 2021
Home Science E-Eggs Track Turtle Traffickers

E-Eggs Track Turtle Traffickers

Poachers take word. If you’re fascinated with stealing eggs from the nests of sea turtles on the seashores of Costa Rica, effectively, you could wind up getting greater than you bargained for. Because researchers have mixed GPS expertise with 3D printing to supply decoy eggs that feel and appear like actual turtle eggs…however can observe the place traffickers go after they swipe these endangered embryos. The egg-saving efforts are mapped out within the journal Current Biology. [Helen Pheasey et al, Using GPS-enabled decoy turtle eggs to track illegal trade]

Some discover sea turtle eggs to be a scrumptious seasonal deal with…others suppose they’re an aphrodisiac—which has produced a thriving unlawful market. The mock turtle eggs had been crafted in response to one thing referred to as the Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge, a program sponsored by the U.S. Agency for International Development. Scientists led by Kim Williams-Guillen of Paso Pacifico, a conservation group, devised the decoys. They drew their inspiration, partly, from a preferred TV present, says Paso Pacifico’s govt director, Sarah Otterstrom.

“Kim’s idea to put a tracking device into the egg came from an episode of Breaking Bad where the police hid a GPS transmitter of a shipment of raw materials for a methamphetamines lab.”

The first problem was getting the egg substitute good.

“We started with the size and dimension of the turtle egg, trying to figure out how much do they weigh, what’s their texture, how soft and squishy are there, they, and what’s their color.”

Then, they sorted out the electronics.

“Cell phones are very widespread throughout the world…and we realized if we could just use a SIM card and the GPS GSM technology that’s used in cell phones, that even if a beach was remote from a cell tower, if it was headed to a market somewhere it would eventually pass by a cell tower and the decoy eggs could transmit to one of these cell towers.”

Finally, it was time for a area check.

“I was actually the person who put the eggs in the nest.”

Helen Pheasey of the University of Kent.

“So it was really a case of deploying a load of decoys into the nests and seeing what happens when they get taken.”

Pheasey planted a decoy egg in 101 sea turtle nests on 4 Costa Rican seashores. About 1 / 4 of the decoys obtained snatched. Some malfunctioned, however others gave a trackable sign. One wound up at a bar a few mile away. But one other traveled a formidable 85 miles from its nest. Pheasey saved a watch on its progress from her cellular phone.

“And I basically watched this egg moving further and further in land. And eventually it stopped. So I zoomed in on, like google maps basically, and it showed me very clearly that it had gone behind a supermarket, like some back alley supermarket loading bay kind of area. Which was pretty suspicious. There’s no reason to really be there unless you’re up to no good.”

The decoy hung across the loading dock for a time earlier than making its technique to a close-by residential property.

“The fact that it spent two days in sort of waiting suggests that it may have been handed over to a trafficker.”

Who offered it to another person, maybe even the buyer.

“That actually suits with what we all know concerning the unlawful commerce of eggs in Costa Rica. We know from anecdotal info and from interview info that eggs are offered door to door. And it appears very possible that that is what occurred. So we had been very pleased with that end result, we’ve proved the idea that you simply truly use these eggs.

Pheasey says she hopes the decoys—which they’ve dubbed the “invest-EGG-ators”—might help to actually crack down on the unlawful poaching of sea turtle eggs. And scale back such operations to a shell of their former selves.

—Karen Hopkin

(The above textual content is a transcript of this podcast)    

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