Fake turtle eggs with GPS trackers help identify poaching networks

TECHNOLOGY

In Costa Rica, a successful experiment was carried out to identify routes for the smuggling of wild animals, assisted by high technology. Employees of the environmental agency Paso Pacifico used the development of scientists from the University of Kent – a fake turtle egg. A GPS module was installed inside it, which made it possible to track the path of the egg and go to the smugglers’ warehouse.

Smuggling of animals, body parts, eggs, etc. Traditionally considered the scourge of Central America, the main difficulty is that poachers are thoroughly confusing their routes. The same turtle eggs are a popular delicacy, and since the law prohibits ravaging the clutches directly, the eggs they get are first hidden in the jungle, so that they can then be handed over to restaurants for big money. Many intermediaries are involved in the schemes, and it was unrealistic to trace the path of eggs before.

Beacon in the egg

The project for the introduction of fake eggs with beacons was named InvestEGGator. For greater efficiency, the eggs were placed over a wide area, placing them in 101 clutches on four different beaches. Poachers took at least a quarter of the fake eggs, but not all of them made it to the target – pictures of a demonstratively broken device appeared in local publics. Apparently, it affected that the shells of the eggs were 3D printed, which aroused the suspicion of the smugglers.

However, most of the beacons reached their goal, together with real eggs they were carried by secret paths far into the jungle. The longest route stretched for 137 km and ended in a residential building. Some of the poachers were arrested, but others were not touched – in Paso Pacifico they want to track and identify as many new routes, warehouses and points of sale for turtle eggs as possible. Next in line are similar missions to identify ways of smuggling shark fins and eggs parrots.

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