Feb 2, 2017 | By Julia

A PhD candidate at the University of Kent has come up with a novel way of saving endangered turtles using 3D printing. Helen Pheasey is the driving force behind Turtle Tracks, an initiative that will use 3D printed replica turtle eggs equipped with GPS technology to track poaching in Central America.

One of the most remarkable natural wonders in the world, sea turtles migrate over hundreds (sometimes thousands) of miles every year to nest ashore. But odds are often stacked against the amphibious sea creatures: between predators, pollution, and other environmental risks, only about 1 in 1000 baby turtles survive. Poaching poses an even greater threat. Pheasey says the high demand for turtle meat, shells, and eggs is slowly driving the endangered species to extinction.    

"For the last few years I have been working in Central America with sea turtles,” she explains on the crowdfunding page . “I have witnessed first-hand the miracle of them coming ashore, using their back flippers to dig a nest and then lay their eggs. But I have also seen for myself the number of nests lost to poachers as well as the carcasses of turtles that they leave behind."

In response, Pheasey has launched Turtle Tracks. The project will see 100 3D printed decoy eggs placed among turtle nests on Central American beaches vulnerable to poaching. Embedded with GPS transmitters, the dummy eggs will be tracked in order to see where the stolen eggs end up. 

Pheasey says the technology will trace the poachers’ route once off the beach. “We will then be able to map the poacher’s movements from the beach to the markets where the eggs are bought and sold,” she says. “The idea isn't to punish poachers but to test the technology as a means of future law enforcement, and hopefully also to deter would-be poachers from taking more eggs." The University of Kent researcher is hopeful that if successful, the cutting-edge technology could help protect turtles and help focus limited law enforcement resources.

Conservation NGO Paso Pacifico has signed on to provide the 3D printed turtle eggs, which cost around £35 each, and will contain a GPS tracker, SIM card, and power pack, despite looking and feeling identical to real turtle eggs.

The project is currently still in its crowdfunding stage, with two weeks left to go in the campaign. Pledges of £35 will buy one egg, which donors will get to name. Reports on the eggs’ movements will also be provided to backers of the project. Turtle Tracks will take donations until February 17th. Approximately £1,300 has already been raised of the £3,500 target.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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