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Inside A Covert Mission To Defeat Poachers In Nicaragua

Scientists and armed guards were about to trick thieves into revealing their criminal networks. Then Hurricane Otto showed up

At about the same moment I board a flight from Los Angeles to Managua, the capital city of Nicaragua, a tropical cyclone is quietly forming over the southwestern Caribbean sea. My plan—which I detailed in the Winter issue of GOOD—is to join conservationists on a covert mission to trick sea turtle egg poachers into swiping hyper-realistic decoy eggs along with those containing GPS and Bluetooth tracking devices. If all goes smoothly, we’ll gain unprecedented insight into a vast, underground criminal network linked with a shadowy black market stretching from Central America to Asia.

But by the time I’m scheduled to land—around lunchtime on a tropical winter afternoon—the cyclone will have intensified into a full-blown hurricane. Though science journalism isn’t without some degree of risk, my biodiversity beat means I’m usually able to mitigate risks with a sufficient application of mosquito-killing DEET. I’m not a storm-chaser by either trade or personality; I’m an observer of creatures wilder than myself, under the supervision of expert scientists.

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