These tiny ping pong ball-sized eggs may look unassuming, but they’re being used to crack down on poachers in North and Central America.
Sea turtle eggs are considered to be an aphrodisiac and a delicacy, and they can sell for anywhere between $5 to $20 a pop on the black market.
That’s why conservation group Paso Pacífico is planting 3D printed decoy eggs in sea turtle nests that have a high risk of being poached.
The decoys are deployed during the sea turtle nesting season in the fall. Since they’re disguised to look like regular eggs, poachers will steal the decoys along with the originals. The decoy eggs contain GPS trackers that can then show conservationists where poachers are transporting the eggs. If several trackers are shown to end up in the same area, it could indicate the location of a big trader.
According to the Washington Post, Kim Williams-Guillén, director of conservation science at Paso Pacífico, said: “We want to sneak them into nests that are most vulnerable to poaching. It would be really easy for them to grab one of those eggs and not even notice it. We’re not planning on collecting data in real time, unless that’s something that they express real interest in. It’s certainly a possibility.”
“Being able to determine the players with money who are really driving the trade and removing even a couple of them could have a huge effect,” she added.
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