Working To End The Tortoiseshell Trade

Our Too Rare To Wear program has been busy this year. We launched our ground-breaking SEE Shell App in April and since then have been collaborating with partners to improve the app, train law enforcement officials on its use, and support long-term efforts to reduce the trade in key spots around the world.

Key highlights from this work:

  • Launch of the SEE Shell app: SEE Shell is the first to use machine learning to identify hawksbill shell products with photos. More than 1,100 people in 23 countries around the world have downloaded the app to date, which includes 650 downloads from the Apple App Store and 520 downloads on the Google App Store as of August 2022. The app has been tested to reach about 90% accurate on tortoiseshell products.

  • Colombia: Our partner Fundacion Tortugas del Mar has completed workshops with hundreds of participants in coastal towns to educate about this trade and train people how to use the app. They also conducted surveys of more than 500 shops in the region, finding more than 30 selling more than 1,500 pieces of tortoiseshell. They also added 30 new shops to their Turtle-Free Souvenir Shops program.

  • Panama: Too Rare To Wear funded a two week-long series of workshops and visits on the hawksbill trade in Panama with our partners at the Leatherback Project, Fundacion Tortugas del Mar, and representatives of the Panamanian Ministry of the Environment and Navy.

    This team also conducted a training survey on the tortoiseshell trade with more than 2,500 representatives of the Panamanian Army & Navy, who are key to enforcing the laws on wildlife trafficking in the country. In addition, they held 4 workshops for local kids in 4 coastal communities, reaching more than 300 students. Finally, while traveling the country, the team investigated the use of tortoiseshell for the cockfighting industry, which little information has been available due to its secretive nature.

  • Indonesia: Our partners Turtle Foundation / Yayasan Penyu Indonesia are conducting a large outreach campaign that will include advertising on tv, radio, and social media, creation of outreach materials including signage, shirts, and costumes to use for student education. Our funds will help to train local artisans in alternative materials to allow them to stop selling tortoiseshell, as well as business training. In addition, they will be holding three workshops for law enforcement to promote use of our app.

  • Collaboration with WWF: Our collaboration with WWF Australia has been extremely fruitful, starting with their office sharing tortoiseshell images to train the machine learning model. Their staff provided input and helped to test the app in the early stages. ·      SEE Shell will be showcased in a toolkit for the TRIPOD Project which is a collaborative project of Freeland Foundation, WWF, and IFAW. They are highlighting SEE Shell as part of WWF’s ShellBank – Marine Turtle Traceability and Forensics Training workshops led by the Global Marine Turtle Conservation Lead in Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. A total of 30 participants from 10 law enforcement agencies from Sabah Malaysia have participated so far.

Learn more about our Too Rare To Wear program here.