A non-profit in California has developed a way to capture poachers who snatch sea turtle eggs - building lookalike eggs with GPS trackers constructed inside them.
According to research published Monday in the journal Current Biology, the InvestEGGator is a 3D-printed life-like turtle egg that can be tracked as far away as 137 kilometers (85 miles).
"It replicates the appearance, weight, and feel of a real turtle egg. It is easily deployed at low risk to investigators, can be programmed and monitored remotely using web-based and smartphone applications, and is a low cost, allowing for deployment of many units at once," the company said on its website.
The decoy eggs are placed in real nests alongside real eggs, which are monitored and mapped every time they are moved, said the Ventura-based Paso Pacífico, the non-profit that developed the eggs.
The research showed that the decoy eggs provide a signal once every hour.
"Using data provided by the decoys, we identified trafficking routes and on two occasions properties of potential interest to law enforcement," researchers said in the journal. "Decoys also yielded anecdotal information, furthering our understanding of trafficking routes."