2023 Author: Bryan Walter | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-05-21 22:24
Sea turtles on the beach in Costa Rica
British researchers have tested InvestEGGator - a turtle egg-shaped device with a GPS tracker - to track poachers and illegal transport of eggs in Costa Rica. With the help of the device, they were able to track the movements of five clutches: two eggs last transmitted a signal from coastal houses near nesting sites, and one traveled 143 kilometers to a loading dock in a supermarket, and then ended up in a private house nearby. Details of the experiment are described in the journal Current Biology.
According to the latest estimates, about 60 percent of all turtle species are on the verge of extinction. In many ways, human actions contribute to the reduction of the turtles population, and not only environmental pollution with waste, but also illegal fishing: poachers hunt turtles themselves for their shells and meat, and during the mating season for eggs, which are considered a delicacy in many countries …
To protect the sea turtle population from poachers, in 2016, experts from the Nicaraguan conservation organization Paso Pacifico created InvestEGGator, a fake 3D printed turtle eggs inside which GPS trackers are installed that can transmit location data once an hour. It is assumed that such an egg will end up in a clutch of stolen eggs, after which their movement can be tracked and a route for illegal traffic can be drawn.
Helen Pheasey of the University of Kent and her colleagues decided to test InvestEGGator in the field - on the Costa Rican coast, home to several endangered species of sea turtles that are often hunted by poachers - including olive (Lepidochelys olivacea) and green (Chelonia mydas). In total, scientists put one fake tracker egg in 101 turtle nests on the territory of four beaches.
Of the 101 fake eggs, a quarter were stolen - and five of them were tracked before the signal was lost. At least two trackers were taken not so far from the nesting site: one egg was 28 meters from the nesting location, and the other was two kilometers away, which means that the eggs were most likely taken either by local residents or by the owners or suppliers of coastal restaurants.
Scientists managed to track one egg for two days: during this time, the tracker covered 134 kilometers, spent some time on the loading platform of one of the local supermarkets, and then ended up in a private house nearby. The researchers suggested that the clutch of eggs was illegally sold to a private person directly from the place of shipment of goods.
Another fake egg covered 43 kilometers from the Tortuguero National Park (the place of laying) to the town of Carariari, where it again ended up in a private house. After 11 days, the researchers even received a photograph of the egg and information on how many eggs were purchased, which they believe underscores how calm the locals are about the illegal trade in turtle eggs.
A) three real eggs and a fake (bottom left) B-C) fake egg inside and outside D-H) traced paths I) olive turtle
Scientists also noted that fake eggs do not affect the clutches themselves in any way: for this they compared 22 nests in which they planted trackers, and 44 nests without trackers in the same areas. The nests did not differ in the number of laid eggs, mortality, or hatching (all p> 0, 1).
Thus, the authors showed that using fake turtle eggs with a lighthouse is actually an effective and safe way to track poachers. Of course, not all eggs were tracked: some of the displaced eggs were found near the nests, which means that the poachers most likely noticed the change and threw them away, and several more were damaged (most likely from moisture). Both problems, however, can be solved by modifying the device.
Researchers are coming up with a variety of ways to protect rare animals from poachers. Last year, for example, scientists constructed a fake rhino horn out of horsehair, in the hope that bringing the product to market would reduce hunting for the real one.