Hawksbill Turtle Investigation Yields Important Findings in Panama
Since 2014, the Ministry of the Environment of Panama has promoted a project to monitor the presence and abundance of hawksbill turtles in Coiba National Park. This protected area has been confirmed to be the most important feeding (forage) site in the Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean (ETPO). Preliminary findings of this project were recently published in the Latin American Journal of Aquatic Research (LAJAR).
Between September 3-9, 2017, the Eighth Hawksbill Turtle Monitoring Campaign was conducted in the Coiba National Park, a marine protected area with 216,543 hectares in the Panamanian Pacific’s Gulf of Chiriqui.
During the visit, a total of 114 hawksbill turtles were captured, exceeding the previous record (in the sixth campaign) of 66 turtles and bringing the total number of tagged specimen over the years of all the campaigns to 291. As mentioned by the biologist Israel Llamas, principal author of the article recently published in the LAJAR journal, “These elevated numbers represent the largest population that has been detected in a feeding area in the entire ETPO and highlight the importance of continuing to protect and research the species within Coiba National Park.”
The high number of hawksbill turtle individuals also caught the attention of the Ministry of the Environment given that this species is one of the most remarkable wildlife attractions of Coiba National Park. According to Dr. Eric Flores, Coiba National Park Director, “Ecotourism creates income for the park, and benefits for the nearby community tourism guides.”
Researchers once again implemented satellite technology to better understand this species’ movements. A satellite transmitter was installed on a female turtle named MARIA SOFIA II, for several days, the turtle has been transmitting data on her location and migrations, which can be followed on the Internet.
MARIA SOFIA II / © WWF-Panamá
“The Coiba National Park is a nurturing area for hawksbills in the region and satellite telemetry studies have shown that this species is exceptionally loyal to its foraging sites,” says Dr. Diego Amorocho, WWF Latin America Species Specialist, who is also working with the park on the satellite telemetry. “This will provide us with fundamental information for the management and conservation of the species.”