Kim Williams-Guillén is an ecologist. She’s also the director of conservation science for Paso Pacífico. The group protects biodiversity in Central America.
She knew sea turtle eggs were poached. But where did the poachers go? Who was buying the eggs? How could she track them? What if she created a fake turtle egg with a tracking device in it? If it looked real, would poachers notice?
Kim Williams-Guillén holds fake turtle eggs with trackers inside.
A New Idea
Paso Pacífico sent this idea to the Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge. It was selected in 2016 as one of 16 winning ideas. The prize money was used to develop the first model of a fake egg.
A real sea turtle egg is about the size of a Ping‑Pong ball. It has a small dent in it and is slightly squishy. To get that rubbery feel, she needed to find the right sort of plastic.
She tested several and found the right one. She used a 3-D printer. The fake egg was close, but it wasn’t quite right. In a real egg, the yolk almost shines through the shell.
Williams-Guillén knew she needed help. She contacted Lauren Wilde, a makeup artist in Los Angeles. Wilde took the printed eggs and sanded them to make them smooth. Then she put on paint and glue to get the right color.
Outside, the fake eggs look almost identical to real ones. But inside are electronics that connect to the Internet. They show the date and time that the egg is at a certain location.
Lauren Wilde examines one of the fake sea turtle eggs.
Makeup artist Lauren Wilde uses paint and glue. This makes the fake eggs look real.
The fake eggs are hard to spot.
The team can also figure out how fast the egg is moving. That may help them determine how the egg is being transported. On foot? By a vehicle?
Each fake egg costs about $40 to make. Williams-Guillén needed several to test in the field. Luckily, Paso Pacífico was awarded another prize to continue the project.
Each fake egg weighs as much as a real egg. However, it is stuffed with a tracking device.