ALEX CHADWICK, host:
This is DAY TO DAY from NPR News. I'm Alex Chadwick.
In Mexico, a new campaign to protect the eggs of endangered sea turtles features a controversial spokesperson: a Playboy model. Women's groups say these ads are demeaning, but the California-based environmental group WiLDCOAST, along with Mexican conservation groups that are sponsoring the ad, say the campaign is pitched to men who eat the eggs because they're said to be an aphrodisiac. NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro reports.
LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO reporting:
Dressed in a skimpy swimming costume, Argentine model Doris Mar holds a tiny sea turtle in her hand as she pouts into the camera.
(Soundbite of advertisement)
Ms. DORIS MAR: (Foreign language spoken)
GARCIA-NAVARRO: `My man doesn't need to eat turtle eggs,' she says. The ad is part of a nationwide campaign that's been launched here to stop people engaging in what is an illegal trade. Although harvesting and consuming sea turtle eggs was banned in 1990 in Mexico, they're still eaten raw with salt, lime and chili here.
Mr. SERGE DEDINA (WiLDCOAST): If people keep taking these eggs to satisfy their need for organic Viagra, then we've got a problem.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Serge Dedina is the executive director of the California-based conservation group WiLDCOAST.
Mr. DEDINA: Eastern Pacific green sea turtles are near extinction. We're talking about leather-backed turtles which are close to extinction, Olive Ridley turtles which have been coming back on the beaches but need some help.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: At the campaign's recent launch in Mexico City, models in skimpy outfits posed for the cameras next to a poster of Doris Mar. Dedina says that the use of a woman who is on the cover of Playboy targets the very people who eat the eggs.
Mr. DEDINA: We're in a competitive marketplace. We're competing with beer ads, we're competing with car ads, we're competing with everything else in the commercial marketplace, so we've gotta get attention. So this is a very different type of campaign and more importantly it's a campaign that's empowering women to make a choice in Mexico to tell their men, `Don't eat sea turtle eggs because you wanna satisfy me. I don't need that. Use your imagination.'
GARCIA-NAVARRO: But while the message might be a good one, women's groups are furious about how that message is being publicized. Claudia Cruz is a women's activist with Feminist Millennium, an umbrella women's organization in Mexico. She says that the use of Doris Mar reinforces sexist stereotypes.
Ms. CLAUDIA CRUZ (Feminist Millennium): (Foreign language spoken)
GARCIA-NAVARRO: `Do you think this will make men not take it?' she asks. `It will make men take it more. These men don't realize what the ad is about. They only see a naked woman, and that's it.' Much of the illegal harvesting of turtle eggs takes place in the Pacific state of Guerrero. The feminist flap has led officials there to ask that the campaign be stopped.
In Mexico City's market of Pepita(ph), everything and anything is for sale, including guns, the latest Hollywood releases on bootleg DVD, drugs and turtle eggs. The eggs are small, white and round with thin, soft shells that are dented. They lie nestled in lines and are wheeled around in shopping carts so that they can be moved quickly out of the eyes of authorities. They sell for a couple of dollars. A few male customers who are around declined to speak on tape, but they say the reason they eat the eggs is because they taste good, none of them admitting to a female journalist that they might be looking for a boost in their love life. Turtle egg seller pedro, who declined to give his last name for fear of prosecution, defends the trade.
PEDRO: (Spanish spoken)
GARCIA-NAVARRO: He says, `This is a pre-Hispanic food, like iguana and worms. It's a real Mexican dish.' And with Viagra costing over $10 a pill, he believes it's a folk remedy that will remain popular here. Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News, Mexico City.