To catch a turtle poacher: conservationists use fake eggs to bring down bad guys!

A sting operation is taking place spanning Michigan, California and Costa Rica in order to bust poachers and save the sea turtles.

Sea turtles are threatened by extinction; having a delicate ecosystem means even an individual poacher is able to make a huge impact on their survival rates. Turtle eggs are illegally harvested from beaches and sold on the black market, eventually making their way into bars and restaurants as a delicacy.

seaturtle baby endangered

Two women are fighting back, each using a specific set of skills. Kim Williams-Guillen from Michigan, a driven ecologist working for Paso Pacifico, and Lauren Wilde, an accomplished Hollywood special effects artist, are at the heart of executing this project. Together, the women are making fake turtle eggs with a GPS yolk. Williams-Guillen designed the eggs using a 3D printing machine, and Wilde uses her artistry to disguise them as perfect turtle egg replicas.

The idea is that the poachers will unwittingly carry the decoy eggs along with them, unable to tell the difference between fake and real. The GPS device will show law enforcement what routes the poachers are taking and where the operations take place.

sea turtle baby endangered poacher

Kim Williams-Guillen was the brainchild behind the fake turtle eggs, stating that the idea dawned on her while watching Breaking Bad. “In one of the later seasons of the show,” Williams-Guillen says, “the protagonist is in cahoots with the woman from a chemical company.” In the episode, a DEA agent puts a GPS tracker on a barrel of chemicals that the drug dealers are planning to steal in order to track them.

Williams-Guillen realized if the DEA could use GPS technology to catch drug dealers, then she could use the same technology to catch wildlife poachers. She began making the turtle eggs but realized quickly that they would need to be a perfect replica to pass the scrutiny of the poachers, and enlisted Lauren Wilde. Williams-Guillen plans to plant the decoy eggs along the coast of Costa Rica, where turtle poaching is a huge issue.

Credit: @wilde_makeup IG

The women hope to inspire awareness surrounding conservation efforts. Wilde says, you don’t have to be making turtle eggs to make a difference!

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