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The illegal trade in sea turtle eggs is threatening the survival of all seven species of the world’s sea turtles. However, because the transit routes that poachers use to move their illegal cargo are not known, it is difficult to intercept traffickers and better protect the sea turtles.

Paso Pacifico, a U.S. based conservation NGO operating in Nicaragua, came up with an idea to solve this problem: Why not plant GPS tracking devices disguised as a sea turtle eggs in sea turtle nests so that poachers will inadvertently collect them, allowing conservationists to track their movements? As the sea turtle eggs change hands, their location can be transmitted in real-time across cellular networks in Central America, providing important insights to conservationists and law enforcement authorities about this illicit trade. Creating artificial sea turtle eggs that will fool poachers is no easy feat. Hollywood special effects artists are helping Paso Pacifico develop fake prototypes made from silicon rubber that mimic the look and feel of the real thing.

The hope is that this innovation will provide much-needed data on transit routes used in this illicit trade to help meaningfully combat trafficking in sea turtle eggs. “We’re looking for other partner organizations in Central America and even globally who are interested in deploying this technological solution,” says Paso Pacifico’s executive director Sarah Otterstrom. In addition, Paso Pacifico is searching for more funding, as well as experts to help them manage the data they will collect via the hidden tracking devices to ensure it will be usable to potentially prosecute criminals.

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