Scientists 3D print decoy sea turtle eggs to spy on poachers
Sea turtles are facing a massive poaching problem. Already having to deal with the early consequences of global warming, most sea turtle species are hunted for their meat, their shells, and the eggs – especially the eggs –. These last are considered an aphrodisiac and a delicacy in some regions. In fact, Poachers destroy more than 90% of sea turtle nests on many Central American beaches because the eggs are in high demand. Fortunately, a wildlife conservation group on the South Coast is fighting illegal poaching of sea turtle eggs through a solution that integrates 3D printing and GSM-GPS Tracking technologies. Keep reading this article to find out how the InvestEGGator helps lead conservation groups to the poachers directly thanks to a rather clever idea, Ninjaflex filament, the LulzBot Mini 3D printer, and some pretty basic technology.
What is the InvestEGGator and how it works?
InvestEGGator it’s basically a decoy sea turtle egg – about the size of a ping pong ball – that has a GPS inside to track down poachers. What is more, this device will monitor and send real-time information about the movements between poachers and intermediaries whenever the eggs are being carried from one place of hiding to another. The InvestEGGator currently uses mobile networks widely available in Central America and throughout the global tropics where sea turtles nest. Therefore, its creators claim this solution is both feasible and scalable.
Using NinjaFlex filament and the LulzBot Mini 3D printer to create the InvestEGGator
The surface of the InvestEGGator replicates the texture, feel, appearance, dimensions, and weight of a real sea turtle egg. As a matter of fact, real eggs have a flexible, leathery shell, slightly larger than a ping-pong ball and with a softer shell. Besides, weight is a crucial factor since lighter eggs risk falling out of the mix or sinking to the bottom. Therefore, to simulate a real sea turtle egg, conservation scientist Kim Williams-Guillen uses NinjaFlex filament, from the manufacturer NinjaTek. This TPU thermoplastic offers great flexibility, very suitable for the texture that is intended to be achieved.
She also used the LulzBot Mini 3D printer, a desktop solution that boasts high throughput for parts. As a result, scientists got an artificial egg that mimics the attributes of natural Olive Ridley eggs weighing 50 grams with a 40 mm diameter. The only difference indeed is the built-in GPS and SIM card inside. Furthermore, the prototypes turn out to be completely harmless to the real turtle eggs to mix with. In turn, it helps save not just one, but multiple species of sea turtles.
Protecting sea turtle nests from poaching can reverse population declines
InvestEGGator decoy eggs may be the solution to ending illegal poaching, which currently has devastating effects on sea turtle populations. “You can see right there where the egg is traveling down that roadway there and into the parking lot,” says Paso Pacifico Executive Director Sarah Otterstrom. Law enforcement can in fact use the data to identify major transit routes and cripple the illegal egg trade.