Scientists Create Fake Eggs with GPS to Combat Illegal Turtle Trafficking in Costa Rica

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    InvestEggator is a fake turtle egg, printed in 3D and with a GPS inside that allows you to track the location. It is an initiative of Paso Pacífico, a Nicaraguan organization that aims to fight illegal trafficking and protect the turtle population, which is increasingly in danger.

    Helen Pheasey, a scientist at the University of Kent in the United Kingdom, and Kim Williams-Guillen, responsible for the project, explain that placing these GPS and making them confuse with other turtle eggs allows finding evidence and combating illegal trade without damaging the rest of the eggs.

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    InvestEGGator: a project to learn how turtle eggs travel

    The decoy egg research was published on October 5 in the journal Current Biology, where scientists show they were able to track down a nest of turtle eggs that had been stolen from the beach and had traveled for two days up to 137 kilometers.

    Those responsible explain that the idea reminded them of the series ‘Breaking Bad’ and ‘The Wire’, where they dealt with illegal drug trafficking. “In ‘Breaking Bad,’ the DEA places a GPS tracking device in a tank of chemicals to see who receives the products and in an episode of ‘The Wire,’ two police officers place an audio device on a ball of tennis to surreptitiously record a suspected drug dealer, “Pheasey explains.

    Not all fake eggs were so successful. The researchers recovered six fake eggs on the beach, understanding that the thieves had detected that they were different. Another enemy of the project was the humidity. Please and her team found that 32% had damaged transmitters. Finally, there is the challenge of broadcasting a signal in areas without coverage. A series of problems that the researchers believe they can solve in the future.

    During the experiment in Costa Rica, the researchers found some of their fake eggs distributed on very different sides. One of the examples that explain that an egg that was disconnected near a residential area in Cariari, 43 kilometers from the original beach where it had been deposited. 11 days later they received photos of a neighbor who had found and spread the egg, as well as information on where he had bought it.

    According to Pheasey, one of the discoveries of this project is that most of the eggs do not stray especially from the local area. Of the decoy eggs placed in 101 turtle nests, 25% were illegally stolen.

    InvestEGGators are the size of a ping pong ball and are 3D printed with flexible plastic. As a complement, the creators add silicone inside, seal them, sand them, and finally, they are painted to look like the originals. In addition to the GPS, these eggs have a SIM to connect with the Smartphone and be able to communicate their position. Currently, Paso Pacífico is raising funds to continue with the InvestEGGator project.

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