3D-Printed Turtle Eggs Could Help Catch Poachers

Turtle poachers

Along the beaches of Costa Rica, sea turtles love to lay their eggs. But poachers also love to take these eggs and sell them to people who buy these eggs and eat them as food.

All seven species of sea turtles are considered threatened. So, researchers thought of ways to prevent the eggs from being stolen. They designed a fake turtle egg equipped with GPS tracking devices to discover the people behind the illegal activity.

The researchers used flexible plastic material and a 3D printer to create the eggs. They called the eggs the InvestEGGators. Then, they waited for female turtles to lay their eggs in the middle of the night. They placed the fake eggs into the nests together with the real eggs.

How did they make the fake eggs look like real turtle eggs?

According to Dr. Kim Williams-Guillén, who invented the fake eggs, making the eggs look like sea turtle eggs was easy. First, they made them into the right size. Sea turtle eggs are as big as table tennis or golf balls. Dr. Williams-Guillén also put dimples on them to make the fake eggs look like real turtle eggs.

The challenge, however, was to make them feel real. Real sea turtle eggs are leathery, soft, and squishy. Thankfully, once the fake eggs were put into the nests, they got covered with mucus and sand. It then became hard to tell the difference between the fake eggs and the real ones.

Scroll Down for a Downloadable PDF of this article.

How did the 3D-printed eggs help catch poachers?

The eggs had GPS trackers on them. The trackers sent signals to the nearest mobile phone towers every hour. The signals helped authorities follow the eggs and find out where they ended up. 

The GPS tracker inside the 3D-printed egg. Image Credit: Paso Pacifico/Helen Pheasey

What did authorities find out using the InvestEGGators?

Out of 101 fake eggs placed into the nests, 25 were taken by poachers. Some of the trackers in the eggs taken failed to activate, while some were detected by poachers and left behind. However, there were five eggs that gave authorities useful data.

The signals from those eggs revealed that the eggs mostly ended up in bars or people’s homes not too far from the nests. The farthest an egg got was 85 miles, where it finally ended up in a private residence.

What will the authorities do with the data?

The poachers, sellers, and buyers caught during the trial run of the InvestEGGator won’t be punished. Instead, authorities will focus on educating them about illegal wildlife trade and conservation. The authorities will also use the data to provide education and support to the local communities surrounding the nesting areas. 

After reading the passage, answer the following questions:

  1. Why did the scientists decide to create the fake eggs?
  • They wanted sea turtles to take care of the fake eggs.
  • They wanted to discover sea turtle egg poachers and prevent them from stealing the eggs.
  • They wanted to see what happens when sea turtle eggs hatch.
  • They wanted to watch how sea turtles lay their eggs.

Answer: b

  1. According to Dr. Williams-Guillén, what was the real challenge in creating the eggs?
  • Making the eggs look real
  • Making sea turtles believe that the eggs were real
  • Making the eggs feel real
  • Making the eggs smell real

Answer: c

  1. What did the scientists find out using the GPS trackers?
  • The eggs were all discovered and left behind in the nests.
  • The eggs were not taken by the poachers at all.
  • The eggs traveled hundreds of miles.
  • The eggs mostly ended up not too far from the nesting areas.

Answer: d

  1. According to the article, what will the authorities do with the data from the fake eggs?
  • They will use the data to provide education and support to the local communities surrounding the nesting areas.
  • They will use the data to create more products using 3D printers.
  • They will use the data to breed sea turtles.
  • They will not use the data at all.

Answer: a

Recommended Reading Age: 8th  Grade

Copyright. All rights reserved smorescience.com. Download the article in pdf here.

This news was published in the Roselin Rosario Issue. Read more here.


Copyright @smorescience. All rights reserved. Do not copy, cite, publish, or distribute this content without permission.

Join 20,000+ parents and educators
To get the FREE science digest in your inbox!