Scientists Use Decoy Eggs To Track Illegal Turtle Poachers

Who would’ve thought that the fictional Walter White would end up being a great influence? However, it seems that the people who hunt turtle poachers have taken a hint from the show “Breaking Bad” and have found a clever way of putting an end to the illegal turtle egg trade.

Using InvestEggators, which are fake turtle eggs enabled with a GPS tracker in order to follow the movements of the poachers who take them from the endangered sea turtles, the conservation organization called Paso Pacifico have been trying to bring an end to the illegal trade of endangered sea turtle products. Scientist Kim Williams-Guillen came up with the idea after being inspired by Walter White.

As Williams-Guillen shared, the part of “Breaking Bad” when the DEA puts a GPS tracking device on a tank of chemicals was what inspired Williams-Guillen. Because of this sneaky idea, InvestEggators will now be able to track the eggs and see where they travel to. This will then provide some much-needed insight for Paso Pacifico into the illegal operations run by poachers.

In Central America, turtle eggs are considered a delicacy. As a result, there are plenty of restaurants and bars in the area that would be willing to pay top dollar for some illegally obtained turtle eggs.

A total of 101 of these 3D-printed, GPS-enabled eggs were distributed across four different beaches in Costa Rica. Soon after they were placed there, about a quarter of these eggs were snatched by poachers – and so the surveillance began. The eggs all made different journeys, with some just traveling a short distance down the road to a local bar, while others travelled for days before reaching their destinations. A few even went to a residential property miles from the beach!

As the Paso Pacifico scientists shared, one town, Cariari, had people coming forward with tips about the poaching racket even after the decoy egg had been taken offline. From there, the scientists were able to get a better understanding of what goes on once these eggs are collected from the beach.

The lead researcher, Dr. Helen Pheasey, doesn’t believe that many of the eggs leave the local area after some of the data collected seemed to support her theory.

As she explained, “Knowing that a high proportion of eggs remain in the local area helps us target our conservation efforts. We can now focus our efforts on raising awareness in the local communities and direct law enforcement to this local issue. It also means we know where the consumers are, which assists us in focusing demand reduction campaigns.”

The research team is hoping that this use of decoy eggs will hopefully spread to other parts of the globe in an effort for other conservationists to better fight other cross-border illegal trades of endangered eggs.

In addition, Paso Pacifico is also hard at work on transmitters that could be used to track smugglers of shark fins, as well as parrot eggs! Hopefully this decoy trend will catch on so that more endangered animal species can be better protected from poachers and smugglers.

Anastasia is an American writer and journalist living in Dublin, Ireland. Her Twitter is @AnastasiaArell5.

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