Paso Pacifico, a conservation organization, created decoy sea turtle eggs with satellite tags to crack down on the illegal trade of their eggs. The fake eggs were placed in 101 nests along a beach in Costa Rica and the organization found that a quarter of the fake eggs placed were stolen.
Dubbed the InvestEggator, the group was able to successfully track the fake eggs as the product was being moved from the thieves to the buyers. These sea turtle eggs are typically sold to restaurants, bars, or individuals because they are considered a delicacy.
Researchers are finding from early evidence that these eggs are moving to locations that are not too far from the nests. Providing useful intelligence for authorities and researchers that are hoping to protect the eggs. One of the people hoping to stop the sea turtle egg trade is Helen Pheasey. She is the lead author of the study and is a Ph.D. student at the University of Kent.
“Knowing that a high proportion of eggs remain in the local area helps us target our conservation efforts,” she said, “We can now focus 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 larger goal of this operation is not to find who is doing the stealing, but the people who are trying to traffic and sell the eggs. Pheasey said, “As trafficking is a more serious crime, those handover points are far more valuable from a law enforcement perspective than catching someone taking a nest.”
There were six eggs that were found out by the people stealing eggs, a 32% failure rate. The fake eggs were designed by Kim Williams-Guillén and she explained to the Guardian, where the inspiration came from.
“In one episode of The Wire, two police officers plant an audio device in a tennis ball to surreptitiously record a suspected drug dealer,” she explained, “Turtle eggs basically look like ping-pong balls, and we wanted to know where they were going – put those two ideas together and you have the InvestEggator.”
In addition to eradicating the turtle egg trade, she hopes to use the technology to track the buying and selling of shark fins.