Jan 4, 2018 | By Benedict

Paso Pacifico, a conservation organization that uses fake 3D printed turtle eggs to track illegal poachers, believes Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity can help improve its environmental mission, which is now named “InvestEGGator.”

Over the last few years, we’ve heard about the work of Paso Pacifico on several occasions. With offices in both California and Nicaragua, the conservation organization aims to protect biodiversity, restoring and protecting the Pacific Slope ecosystems of Mesoamerica.

From our perspective, however, Paso Pacifico is all about 3D printed turtle eggs. A couple of years ago, the organization came up with the clever idea of making fake 3D printed turtle eggs that contain GPS-GSM trackers. By planting these eggs in and around real turtle nests, workers at the organization can then track any illegal poacher who inadvertently steals the 3D printed egg.

“We have a prototype that is functioning using a GPS/GSM device and is hooked up to a cellular phone network and then placed into an artificial sea turtle egg,” says Paso Pacifico executive director Sarah Otterstrom. “While those eggs are moving across transit routes, the artificial eggs are transmitting in real time their actual location.”

At $100 per 3D printed egg, the “InvestEGGator” program is proving to be great value for money. Since authorities know very little about where poachers and black market traders operate, getting these sneakily obtained maps of trade routes could make a huge difference in the fight against poaching.

Now you might think a 3D printed egg would be conspicuous amongst real ones, but Paso Pacifico says this isn’t the case at all. Not only are the fake eggs realistic in both appearance and weight, but the conservationists also have other factors working to their advantage: poachers typically have to go about their business at nighttime, making it harder for them to spot any suspect-looking goods, while they also have to work quickly, meaning the fake eggs are less likely to get damaged or lose power over long journeys.

Testing of the 3D printed turtle eggs—which contain a GPS-GSM tracker, SIM card, and power pack—has been taking place on beaches in Nicaragua, and the current version of the $100 device is working better than ever.

It’s not just Paso Pacifico that thinks the 3D printed turtle eggs are a good idea, though. The conservation organization has won an award, as well as a huge $100,000 in funding, from the Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge, which is organized by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

The funding proves the growing interest in clever conservation techniques like this. And while other organizations have attempted similar tactics like embedding sensors into the horns of endangered rhinos, few approaches are as subtle and effective as the 3D printed turtle eggs.

Poachers, be warned: 3D printing and IoT could soon thwart your practices forever.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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