InvestEGGator Pilot Study: Policy Analysis, Recommendations, and Feasibility for Costa Rica
Despite their protected status, a major threat to sea turtles is egg poaching for local consumption and commercial trade. In Costa Rica alone, as many as 100% of eggs are poached in some beaches (Fonseca et al, 2015). To help address this problem, our team partnered with Paso Pacífico who created the InvestEGGator – an artificial 3D printed egg containing a GPS tracker which resembles a real sea turtle egg.
The primary component of the project involved initiating a pilot study of the InvestEGGator. We aimed to understand whether conservation nonprofits could utilize this device to track poaching routes. Through semi-structured interviews we discovered that NGOs followed different monitoring protocols; different sea turtle species overlapped at some nesting grounds; cell tower signal strength and availability were limited; and poaching activity varied across five NGO locations. These site differences affected deployment of the InvestEGGators. NGOs successfully deployed 21 devices between October and December 2019 and only two were poached. We were unable to retrieve positional data for the stolen decoy eggs. Our findings show that the InvestEGGators are capable of deceiving poachers based on appearance but require improving their internal hardware to render them reliable for future deployment.
Second, we sought to understand the socioeconomic drivers of sea turtle egg poaching in Latin America, and what policy interventions might help address the issue. We identified five primary reasons for high rates of continued poaching, including a strong cultural tradition of consuming sea turtle eggs and lack of economic alternatives to poaching. Our investigation found that more governmental assistance is needed to ensure successful conservation outcomes.
Araceli Morales-Santos, MS (CE); Zoe Fullem, MS (EI, CE); Jared Hocking, MS (EPP, CE)