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Published 20 August 2015

Thousands of olive ridley turtles return every year to the country's coasts to lay their eggs in the sand. The natural process attracts poachers who illegally trade turtle meat and eggs.

The Mexican government announced Thursday that it will allocate more than US$4 million to purchase unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, in order to protect Oaxaca state beaches in southwestern Mexico against turtle egg poachers.

Thousands of olive ridley turtles return every year to the country's coasts to lay their eggs in the sand. The process attracts poachers, who trade turtle meat and eggs illegally, defying the hefty jail sentence against such activity.

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Authorities say the money is aimed at permanently eradicating the illegal extraction of turtle eggs in the country. They have already started with two drones on two beaches and footage from earlier this month shows local residents digging in the sand and stealing hundreds of eggs.

“This is a joint effort by the country's Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources (Semarnat) and the navy,” said in a press conference the Federal Attorney for Environmental Protection, Guillermo Haro Belchez.

Haro added that the marines have been also instructed to stop the eggs reaching the market. According to figures provided by the official, fishers in the area can sell turtle eggs for up US$0.90 each.

Turtle eggs can only be consumed during the first five or six days after they are laid, before a turtle embryo beings to grow. With this measure authorities are trying to arrest poachers and recover the eggs, in order to place them again in the sand so they can continue their incubation progress.

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