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In order to conserve endangered sea turtles, researchers are utilising fake eggs with GPS trackers.

Seagulls have started to pose a serious danger to native species in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. On Heron Island off the coast of Gladstone, seagulls hunt on immature native bird chicks and hatchling turtles, lowering the survival rates of numerous endangered species.

When sea turtles synchronise their egg-laying, ‘predator swamping’ overwhelms them, giving them a very small chance of survival.

According to conservation biologist Helen Pheasey, who used the most recent 3D printing and GPS technology for her doctoral dissertation, technology is a significant factor in the conservation of sea turtles.

Pheasey is tracking the illegal trade in sea turtle eggs by smuggling decoy eggs made via 3D printing into the poaching underworld.

‘Then what she’s done is track the routes of trade, basically, in the black market,’ Valverde says.

Seeking to get ahead of the problem and reduce poaching behaviour, Valverde expects the illegal trade information to be published when the project wraps up later this year.

‘Especially in Costa Rica, they make a drink that is basically tomato sauce, lime and hot sauce. It has a few components, and they add that to the egg and they just chug it raw,’ Valverde says.

‘The reason people do it — it’s mostly men, I would say — is because there is this notion that these eggs may be an aphrodisiac,’ he says.

‘There’s no proof of that; everything we’ve seen shows that’s not the case. But the lore is that this happens, so many still continue to consume eggs in great numbers.’

According to Roldán Valverde, scientific director at the Sea Turtle Conservancy in Florida and a professor at Southeastern Louisiana University, ‘In general, sea turtle populations across the globe have been rebounding.’

‘They are not up to historical levels, but they are rebounding. And the one thing in common to all conservation projects is the protection of the eggs and the beaches.’


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