IELTS General Test – Passage 10: Preventing the theft of turtle eggs reading with answers explanation, location and pdf. This reading paragraph has been taken from our huge collection of Academic & GT Reading practice test PDFs.
Preventing the theft of turtle eggs
Conservationists and law enforcement have struggled to prevent wildlife trafficking. But could some plastic eggs and GPS trackers change the game?
Humans have been eating sea turtle eggs (and killing adult turtles for meat) for millennia. However, as human populations exploded and as sea turtles began to confront additional threats such as intensive fishing, beach development and climate change, sea turtle populations declined precipitously. Today, all but one of the world’s seven species of sea turtles are considered threatened according to the IUCN* Red List. And the one that’s not – the flatback turtle – is listed as data deficient, which means scientists simply don’t know how it’s doing.
One major problem is that every year millions of sea turtle eggs are illegally taken by poachers for sale on the black market. The situation is particularly serious in Nicaragua, in Central America, which is home to four sea turtle species.
Kim Williams-Guillen, who works for conservation body Paso Pacifico, described the poaching of sea turtle nests on the beaches of Nicaragua as ‘uncontrolled, unregulated, extensive and contested’. Even the best-protected beaches are plundered to some extent and it’s not uncommon to see poachers digging up nests just meters from tourists watching sea turtles laying their clutch at night, she said. This poaching becomes particularly frenzied during the arribadas – mass laying events where thousands of turtles nest on the same beach for a single night in a biological strategy to overwhelm natural predators.
‘Even with armed guards, the numbers of poachers overwhelm military personnel by ten to twenty to one,’ Williams-Guillen said. ‘Although many poachers are locals with limited resources, during these arribadas there are influxes of gangs of poachers from larger cities outside local communities. These are not just local poor people without other options.’
But to protect the country’s sea turtles, Williams-Guillen said conservationists shouldn’t just depend on catching low-level operators. ‘If one poacher decides to stop, another one will just step into his place… we need to know more about the middlemen and people higher up in the distribution chain,’ she said.
Paso Pacifico’s solution is the creation of high-tech sea turtle eggs: fake eggs convincingly crafted to look like the real thing, but which contain GPS tracking devices. These have the potential to reveal the destination markets for trafficked sea turtle eggs.
Making convincing sea turtle eggs is not easy, and Paso Pacifico is still working on perfecting a prototype. In particular, it’s proving quite problematic to create the right texture, since sea turtle eggs are not covered in a hard shell like those of birds, but are quite flexible.
So Paso Pacifico brought in Lauren Wilde, a special effects artist in the US, to create a convincing outer shell. First, Wilde had to get her hands on the real thing. Since it’s illegal to send sea turtle eggs over the border, Wilde is using land turtle eggs from California. ‘It was really eye opening and important for me to feel these eggs and how the shell bends a little,’ she said.
To get the GPS device inside the shell, Paso Pacifico is using 3D printers to make a plastic ball which will then have a GPS transmitter fitted inside. This will take the place of the embryo inside the shell. Lastly the fake shells will be sealed with silicone, waterproofing them.
Sea turtles on average lay around 100 eggs in a nest, and once the fake eggs are finished they will be slipped in with the real ones. Williams-Guillen said it might even be possible to deliver fake eggs into nests while poachers are at work. Wary of tourists, poachers will often back off if strangers come near and then return when they have gone. ‘It would be pretty easy to drop an egg in the dark into a nest they have been digging up,’ she said.
Once the poacher picks up the fake egg along with the real ones, conservationists and law enforcement agents will be able to track them. Experts believe most of the stolen eggs eventually make their way out of Nicaragua, possibly to El Salvador or Guatemala. However, there is also growing concern that sea turtle eggs from Central America are actually heading to the USA, from where they are sold on to other countries around the world.
To date, Paso Pacifico has yet to put a single fake egg in a nest. But Williams-Guillen said she isn’t too concerned that publicity for their scheme will result in poachers looking for the eggs. ‘The vast majority of the poaching is happening at night, so already it is hard to tell [the eggs] apart, and at this point, poachers and middlemen are not closely inspecting eggs, but rather shoving them into a sack as quickly as possible.’
Of course, poachers will eventually become aware of the prospect of fake eggs among the real ones – especially when customers try to bite into an egg and break their teeth on the GPS transmitter instead. So, Paso Pacifico plans to do a massive deployment of as many fakes as possible to gather a lot of data before poachers get wise.
Knowing where the eggs go will allow conservationists and law enforcement agents to focus their resources on the right places – whether it be through awareness-building campaigns or crackdowns on illegal sellers. And eventually Paso Pacifico hopes to share the technology with interested parties around the world.
*IUCN: International Union for Conservation of Nature
Choose the correct letter, A, B, C or D.
Write the correct letter in boxes 34-37 on your answer sheet.
34. What does the writer suggest about the flatback turtle?
A) It could be as severely threatened as other turtles.
B) It has been neglected by scientists in the past.
C) It is in less danger than some other species.
D) It should be removed from the IUCN Red List.
35. Williams-Guillen says that the poaching of sea turtle eggs in Nicaragua
A) is mainly carried out by local people.
B) may be encouraged by the presence of tourists.
C) sometimes has a highly organised structure.
D) can only be controlled by the use of armed guards.
36. In Section E, Williams-Guillen says that one way to encourage poachers to take the fake eggs is to
A) make fake nests and put the eggs into them.
B) put them in nests with just a few real eggs.
C) distract the poachers after the fake eggs have been put in the nests.
D) put them in nests that the poachers have started to dig up.
37. It is planned to use a large number of fake eggs at the beginning because
A) some of the fake eggs may be missed by the poachers.
B) it may not be possible to continue the project indefinitely.
C) some eggs may be hidden in the sand.
D) it may not be feasible to fund long-term research.
Complete the summary below.
Choose ONE WORD ONLY from the text for each answer.
Write your answers in boxes 38-40 on your answer sheet.
Making convincing sea turtle eggs
One difficulty in creating a fake sea turtle egg is to get the appropriate texture for the shell. Unlike a bird’s egg, a turtle’s egg has a shell which is 38……………… . Lauren Wilde has studied eggs from Californian turtles that live on 39……………… to create a realistic reproduction of the shell. A GPS device will then be placed inside a 40…………….. in the fake shell. Finally, silicone will be applied to the shell to make it waterproof.
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