Endangered baby sea turtles may have a new savior: GPS eggs
Conservation scientist Kim Williams-Guillén was wracking her brain to come up with a way to save endangered sea turtles from egg poachers when she had an “aha” moment: If she placed a fake egg containing a GPS tracker in the reptiles’ nests, she might be able to track the thieves.
The idea won her the 2015 Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge—and a $10,000 prize. Now, Williams-Guillén, a conservation scientist at the environmental nonprofit Paso Pacífico, and a multinational team of colleagues have not only made the device—dubbed the InvestEGGator—but have also published the results of their first field test. Of 101 decoy eggs, five were able to track the routes of poachers up to hundreds of kilometers away. The “amazing” approach could one day help identify and stop high-level traffickers in the trade chain, says Héctor Barrios-Garrido, a conservation biologist from the University of Zulia, Maracaibo, who was not involved with the study.
Sea turtle eggs are a culinary delicacy in Central America, and some believe the eggs can improve sexual performance. All seven sea turtle species are listed as threatened—some critically so—and egg poachers are only exacerbating the problem. Yet conservationists simply do not have the capacity to continuously patrol large beaches throughout the laying season.