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A new app aims to help save critically endangered sea turtles

With its durability and transfixing swirl of translucent amber and brown layers, tortoiseshell has been used for centuries to make everything from jewelry to combs to dishware.

“It was plastic before plastic was invented because it’s so malleable,” says Brad Nahill, co-founder and president of turtle conservation group SEE Turtles and a National Geographic Explorer.

Tortoiseshell does not come from tortoises. It almost exclusively comes from the critically endangered hawksbill turtle. Between 1884 and 1992, data show, at least nine million hawksbills were killed and sold for their shells. Today, fewer than 25,000 breeding females remain globally, and its international commercial trade is banned.

Nahill’s group is leading an effort to use modern technology to combat the illi...

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