3D Printed Turtle Eggs May Help to Stop Poaching

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UI7r4edIf you’re looking for a story that will make you feel good about humanity, this probably isn’t it. However, it might give us a little bit of hope that some of the less desirable members of it might get what’s coming to them. People seem to have an obsession with eating/wearing/subduing animals that can lead to the decimations of entire species. Even if you are not a member of PETA and can’t resist a good hamburger, reasonable limits to these practices are extremely important to maintaining animal populations and preventing endangerment or extinction.

One such problem exists in relation to the illegal collection of turtle eggs being removed from the coasts of North and Central America. Poachers steal the eggs, sometimes while the turtle is laying them, and sell them to be eaten. While turtles such as the Loggerhead and the Olive Ridley sea turtle lay large numbers of eggs at a time, they do so only once a year and many of the young that hatch from the eggs do not survive to adulthood. In addition, the clutches are completely defenseless and already subject to attacks by other natural predators. All in all this means that every egg counts when helping to maintain threatened species’ populations.

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[Image: Dave Bothman/Paso Pacífico]

In an effort to better understand the demand for these eggs, a California conservation group named Paso Pacífico has created a series of faux-eggs using a 3D printer. These decoys have GPS tracking devices inside them, rather than a future baby turtle, and the organization hopes that they will be able to determine who the buyers of these eggs are. The poachers themselves have often been the target of egg protection policy, but in order to address the problem, the root of the demand needs to also be extirpated.

4256110d-53ff-43af-b856-a99a743a044eThere have been concerted efforts to inhibit poaching activities. A California couple that was caught smuggling nearly a thousand Olive Ridley sea turtle eggs across the border from Mexico was sentenced to spend six months in jail and a Georgia man who was a repeat offender ended up with 21 months to serve in jail as a result of stealing Loggerhead turtle eggs. One of the impacts of these protective measures has been a rise in the number of nesting turtles. Unfortunately, this has also meant there are more nests to protect and larger hauls of eggs to poach attracts more attention.

“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,” explained Kim Williams-Guillén, director of conservation science at Paso Pacífico.

 

“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,” she continued, noting that the goal is “being able to determine the players with money who are really driving the trade. Being able to remove even a couple of them could have a huge effect.”

In the same way that a few individual poachers can do a significant amount of damage, Paso Pacífico hopes that the information collected from the decoy eggs could lead to the removal of some of the big players in the illegal turtle egg trade. Even if not completely extinguished, the exponential nature of the impacts could be mitigated if a few of the big players were eliminated. Let’s discuss further in the 3D Printed Turtle Eggs forum over at 3DPB.com.

[Source: Washington Post]

 

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