Category Archives: Panama


Assistantships for Sea Turtle Monitoring in Panama’s Bastimentos Island National Marine Park

STC Programs: Research: Assistantships for Sea Turtle Monitoring in Bocas del Toro Region, Panama

Bastimentos Island National Marine Park

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Since 2003, Drs. Anne and Peter Meylan have worked in partnership with the Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) to monitor important Panamanian sea turtle nesting beaches in the Bocas del Toro Province and the Comarca Ngäbe Buglé, from the Changuinola River to the Chiriquí River. Key among these beaches are three in the Bastimentos Island National Marine Park, Small Zapatilla Cay, Big Zapatilla Cay and Playa Larga.  For the 2018 nesting season, they anticipate having up to 6 openings for research assistants to help with this work.

Application Information for Research Assistant Positions

Research Assistantship (RA) positions are voluntary (unpaid) and selected RAs are expected to plan and finance their own travel to and from Bocas del Toro, Panama. Selected RAs will receive board and lodging in small field camps and will be expected to help with cooking and clean-up.

Good knowledge of Spanish and English is required. Applicants with: 1) education in biology or related fields, 2) previous fieldwork with sea turtles, and 3) experience working/living in multicultural environments in isolated locations for extended periods will be most competitive for these positions.  Availability for the entirety of one specified time interval for the BINMP program (27 April through 31 July or 25 July through 2 November) is preferred.

STC Alumni RAs have gone on to work for conservation organizations, universities and government agencies worldwide.

Applications for RA positions must include the following materials:

  1. Application Form (download below);
  2. A cover letter explaining why you are interested in the Research Assistant position, details of any relevant experiences and a statement of your level of proficiency in English and Spanish (either a formal qualification or an indication of your written/oral comprehension);
  3. A CV or resume with pertinent information; and
  4. Name and email contact of three professional references.

Completed materials should be emailed to Peter Meylan (meylanpa@eckerd.edu), Anne Meylan (anne.meylan@myFWC.com), and Cristina Ordoñez at cristinao@conserveturtles.org.

All application materials must be received at our office before or on the deadline listed for each program. Short-listed candidates will be contacted within four weeks of the application deadline. Please do not phone or e-mail to inquire about the status of your application.

Applicants that do not supply all requested materials will not be considered.

 

2018 BINMP Program Research Assistant Position Information:

Project description: Conservation and monitoring of hawksbill and leatherback sea turtles
Location: Bocas del Toro Province, Bastimentos Island National Marine Park (BINMP)

Dates: Group 1: 27 April  – 31 July 2018
Group 2: 25 July – 2 November 2018
Applications will be accepted until all positions are filled.

Project summary:
Since 2003, Anne and Peter Meylan have worked in a partnership with the Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) to monitor important Panamanian sea turtle nesting beaches in the Bocas del Toro Province and the Comarca Ngäbe Buglé, from the Changuinola River to the Chiriquí River.  Four sea turtle species are found in the waters of Bocas del Toro and the Comarca; Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), Green (Chelonia mydas) and Loggerhead (Caretta caretta). Within this region, we have standardized monitoring, research and protection efforts in collaboration with STC and members of local communities close to the nesting beaches. This program has had very positive results. Nearly 1,000 hawksbill nests were recorded in the park in 2017.  In the last 14 years, there has been a reduction in the illegal killing of turtles on the majority of nesting beaches in the area, and an increasing nesting trend for both Leatherback and Hawksbill turtles. Despite these advances, numerous threats remain for the sea turtles within and adjacent to BINMP, including increasing pressure on coastal and marine habitats through unregulated tourism development and the continued hunting of turtles for personal consumption and commercial purposes both on the beach and within park waters.

Work description:
Up to 6 research assistants (RAs) will be trained in sea turtle monitoring techniques by, and work under the supervision of, the Meylans (Eckerd College and the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission) and Cristina Ordoñez, STC’s Panama Coordinator. The season is divided into two time periods that together span the majority of the hawksbill nesting season in BINMP: May through July and August through October.  The beach monitoring team will be made up of local Panamanians with moderate to extensive experience with the project and RA’s from multiple countries around the world. The primary responsibilities of the RAs will include day time census patrols, night time tagging patrols, and logistic support of all camp activities.   Day time patrols include identifying and accurately recording all emergence and nesting activity, marking of nests for future hatching success evaluation, and performing excavations of hatched nests.  Night time patrols include tagging and measuring nesting females.  All RA’s are expected to contribute to recording data, maintaining the camp, cooking and cleaning, making food trips to town, and other activities in support of the project.

RAs can expect to work very long hours, throughout the day and night, often with little sleep. Beach patrols require walking between 6 to 12 kilometers in soft sand and in extreme weather conditions. Night time patrols are 5 hours long (8 pm – 1 am or 1 am to 6 am).  Therefore excellent physical condition is a requirement for the RA positions.

The work will be developed in three different beaches in Bastimentos Island National Marine Park (BINMP): “Small” Zapatilla Cay (Zapatilla Uno), “Big” Zapatilla Cay (Zapatilla Dos), and   Long Beach (Playa Larga). RAs will rotate among the three beaches while participating in the sea turtle program and may have an opportunity to work for short periods at other sites in the region.

For additional information about the project and to download an application, visit https://conserveturtles.org/stc-programs-research-assistantships-sea-turtle-monitoring-bastimentos-island-national-marine-park/

 

Apply to be a Research Assistant with STC in Bocas del Toro, Panama

Since 2003, Sea Turtle Conservancy has worked at important Panamanian sea turtle nesting beaches in the Bocas del Toro Province and the Comarca Ngäbe Buglé, from the Changuinola river to the Chiriquí river. Four sea turtle species are found in the waters of Bocas del Toro and the Comarca; Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), Green (Chelonia mydas) and Loggerhead (Caretta caretta).

Application Information for Research Assistant Positions

Research Assistantship (RA) positions are voluntary and selected RAs are expected to plan and finance their own travel to and from Bocas del Toro. Selected RAs will receive board and lodging at the STC Field Station for the duration of their time working for STC in Bocas del Toro and the Comarca.

Good knowledge of Spanish and English, education in biology or related fields, previous fieldwork experience in the tropics, experience working/living in multicultural environments, experience working/living in isolated locations for extended periods, previous experience in environmental education and availability for the entire period of the program greatly improve the chance of being selected for a position.

STC Alumni RAs have gone on to work for conservation organizations, universities and government agencies worldwide.

Applications for RA positions must include the following materials:

1. Application Form (download below);

2. A cover letter explaining why you are interested in the Research Assistant position, details of any relevant experiences and a statement of your level of proficiency in English and Spanish (either a formal qualification or an indication of your written/oral comprehension);

3. A CV or resume with pertinent information; and

4. Name and email contact of three professional references.

Completed materials should be emailed to Cristina Ordoñez at cristinao@conserveturtles.org

All application materials must be received at our office before or on the deadline listed for each program. Short-listed candidates will be contacted within four weeks of the application deadline. Please do not phone or e-mail to inquire about the status of your application.

Applicants that do not supply all requested materials will not be considered.


2018 Program Research Assistant Position Information:

Project description: Conservation and monitoring of sea turtles
Location: Bocas del Toro Province and Comarca Näbe Buglé, Panama
Dates: Group 1: March 20 – June 20, 2018
Group 2: June 20 – September 20, 2018
Application Deadline:  Group 1: January 20, 2018
Group 2: April 20, 2018

Project summary:
Since 2003, STC (Sea Turtle Conservancy) has worked at important Panamanian sea turtle nesting beaches in the Bocas del Toro Province and the Comarca Ngäbe Buglé, from the Changuinola river to the Chiriquí river. Four sea turtle species are found in the waters of Bocas del Toro and the Comarca; Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), Green (Chelonia mydas) and Loggerhead (Caretta caretta). Within this region STC has standardized monitoring, research and protection efforts in collaboration with members of communities close to the nesting beaches. In addition, education and awareness programs have been developed to highlight the importance of protecting and conserving sea turtles and other natural resources. This program has had very positive results. In the last 12 years there has been a reduction in the illegal killing of turtles on the majority of nesting beaches in the area, and an increasing nesting trend for both Leatherback and Hawksbill turtles. Despite these advances, numerous threats remain for the region’s sea turtles, including predation of nests by domestic dogs, increasing pressure on coastal and marine habitats through unregulated tourism development, and the continued hunting of turtles for personal consumption and commercial purposes.

Work description:
A maximum of 12 research assistants (RAs) will be trained in sea turtle monitoring techniques by, and work under the supervision of, the STC’s coordinators. The season is divided into two time periods, March – June and June – September, with six RAs in each time period. The Leatherback season goes from March – August, and the hawksbill season May – October. The RA team will be made up of individuals from several countries from around the world, with an emphasis on Latin America and the Caribbean. The primary responsibilities of the RAs will include tagging nesting turtles, collecting biometric data from females during nightly patrols, recording nesting activity during morning track surveys, nest monitoring and excavation, and other pertinent data collection.

RAs can expect to work very long hours, throughout the day and night, often with little sleep. Beach patrols require walking between 6 to 12 kilometers in soft sand and in extreme weather conditions. The patrols take from 4 to 6 hours; therefore an excellent physical condition is a requirement for the RA positions.

The work will be developed in three different beaches in Bocas del Toro Province: Soropta, Long Beach and Chiriquí Beach. RAs will rotate among the three beaches while participating in the sea turtle program.

The RAs will work with the STC Education and Outreach Coordinator to develop and participate in various environmental awareness and educational activities with members of the Bocas del Toro community.

2018 Panama RA Application 

2018 Panama RA Application (Word)

STC Announces New Scientific Director

Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) announces a change in the scientific oversight of its international sea turtle research and monitoring programs. Effective in July, the position of Scientific Director will transition from Dr. Emma Harrison to Dr. Roldán Valverde. Anyone interested in collaborating with STC on research projects in Costa Rica, Panama and other international sites are encouraged to reach out directly to Dr. Valverde at roldan@conserveturtles.org. Likewise, anyone interested in exploring opportunities to serve as a Research Assistant with the Tortuguero program or at STC’s project sites in Panama can now direct those inquires to Roldán.

Dr. Harrison with nesting turtle

While STC is very excited about what Dr. Valverde will bring to this position, the organization is equally sad to announce the departure of Dr. Emma Harrison, who has resigned to explore new opportunities in the field of biological conservation. Dr. Harrison has worked with STC off and on since 1998 and has served as Scientific Director since 2006. Through her leadership and passion, Dr. Harrison continued a long tradition of outstanding scientific oversight of STC’s sea turtle monitoring programs; she trained and inspired countless research assistants and helped expand STC’s education and community outreach programs in both Costa Rica and Panama. Emma will be greatly missed by STC, though she will forever remain a part of the STC family and the history of the organization.

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New STC scientific director Dr. Valverde with tagged leatherback

As STC’s incoming Scientific Director, Dr. Valverde will provide scientific oversight of STC’s various sea turtle research programs, particularly the long-term projects in Tortuguero, Costa Rica, and Bocas del Toro, Panama. Over two decades ago, as a young Costa Rican biologist, Roldán served as Research Coordinator of STC’s Tortuguero research program. Since that time, he has achieved international recognition in the field of sea turtle research and is a leading expert in the area of sea turtle physiology. Dr. Valverde served recently as President of the International Sea Turtle Society; he is well published; and he currently serves as a graduate biology professor at Southeast Louisiana University in New Orleans.  As a native Costa Rican and an accomplished scientist and educator, Roldán will be in an ideal position to continue elevating the science and the effectiveness of STC’s many research and conservation programs. He also will help STC expand its efforts to cultivate and train young biologists from throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. Dr. Valverde’s position with STC is endowed by the Emily T. Clay Scientific Director’s Endowment.

Leatherback turtle being satellite-tracked by STC found dead in Colombia

Caña the night she was tagged by STC in May

Caña the night she was tagged by STC in May

In May of this year, STC biologists tagged a leatherback turtle with a satellite transmitter after she nested at Chiriqui Beach, Panama. That same turtle, named “Caña” by local children, was spotted by tourists after it washed ashore in Salinas del Ray, Colombia in July. Caña was positively identified by her flipper tags and still-attached satellite transmitter.

After receiving information about Caña’s fate, STC began trying to piece together what happened to the massive turtle, which had been observed healthy and nesting just two months prior.

Caña’s transmitter began sending strong signals immediately after she was released. She even returned to nest one more time before beginning her migration east toward Colombia. Caña and her transmitter were providing invaluable scientific data and her migration route proved very interesting. For the first time one of STC’s satellite-tracked leatherbacks was heading to South America. STC researchers and thousands of people were tracking Caña’s journey online and could not wait to see where she would go next.

A map of Caña's journey

A map of Caña’s journey

In early July STC migration researcher Dan Evans noticed that Caña’s transmitter had been inactive for several days, which could have two possible explanations – that the transmitter had been damaged and could no longer send signals, or that Caña had not surfaced for some reason. The transmitter Caña was outfitted with is saltwater activated and sends a signal to orbiting satellites whenever the device breaks through the water’s surface, such as when she surfaces to breath or emerges onto shore.

Caña's tag

Caña’s tag

Evans was hesitant to jump to conclusions about Caña’s fate and hoped the transmitter was simply malfunctioning and would begin sending signals again soon. Days later, Caña’s transmitter began sending a very strong signal from the shores of Colombia. On July 8, STC received an email from the Environmental Corporation of the Atlantic in Barranquilla, Colombia, stating that a tourist had found a dead leatherback washed ashore with STC’s tags and contact information. It was Caña.

STC is still awaiting the results of Caña’s necropsy, but the satellite data is very telling. Her transmitter was inactive for three consecutive days, meaning she could have been trapped underwater and drowned. Colombian waters are filled with fishing nets that indiscriminately trap anything they entangle. It is likely that Caña met her fate in one of these nets.

Caña was found washed ashore in Colombia

Caña was found washed ashore in Colombia

Sea turtles are air-breathing reptiles and can only hold their breath for extended periods of time, such as when they are inactive or sleeping. If Caña was in fact trapped in a net, her struggling would have caused her to drown fairly quickly, This is only one possible explanation, but it is the most likely explanation.

Although stories like this are very sad to share, they demonstrate how important it is for STC to keep tracking sea turtles and to raise awareness about the very real threats all sea turtles face.

More photos here

Tour de Turtles 2014: And the Winner is….

CONGRATULATIONS TO THE 2014 TOUR de TURTLES MARATHON WINNER, LEATHERBACK PANAMA JACK AND HER SPONSORS AT TURTLE & HUGHES, INC!

TdT Marathon Winner Panama Jack

TdT Marathon Winner Panama Jack

There was no shortage of excitement in this year’s Tour de Turtles (TdT) marathon! This was the seventh consecutive year that Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) followed the migration of 11 sea turtles as part of the TdT and we are continually amazed by the unending support and enthusiasm shown for our turtle “competitors!”

Melba2014-07-27 061-XLThe 2014 TdT included live turtle releases in Panama, Costa Rica, Nevis and Florida. This year was the first time that a rehabilitated loggerhead turtle competed in the TdT. ‘Pine Tyme‘, an 80 pound sub-adult loggerhead, was spotted struggling on the surface unable to dive and was brought to The Turtle Hospital in Marathon, FL for treatment. She was released from Sombrero Beach, The Florida Keys and marked STC’s first ever release in the Florida Keys.

Before releasing each turtle, STC scientists attached a satellite transmitter to their shell using turtle-safe epoxy or fiberglass resin. The transmitters allowed STC and the public to track the turtles as they migrated from their nesting beaches to their foraging grounds. After three months of friendly competition, we have our winners, along with “updates from the field” from the turtle competitors!

TDT Leaderboard FINAL

Distance Race:
WINNER – Panama Jack, 3936 km, Team Turtle & Hughes, Inc.
2nd – Calypso Blue III, 2685 km, Team Atlantis Resort
3rd – Esperanza, 1679 km, Team Treadright & Contiki Holidays
4th – Estrella, 1549 km, Team Sea Turtle Conservancy
5th – Elsa, 1445 km Team Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund
6th – Melba, 1226 km, Team Turtle Tag www.helpingseaturtles.org
7th – Shelley, 761 km Team Ripley’s Aquariums
8th – Pine Tyme, 684 km Team Turtle Hospital
9th – Anna, 672 km, Team Disney’s Vero Beach Resort & Disney’s Animal Programs
10th – Coco, 593 km & 
11th – Sugar, 517 km, both Team Four Seasons Resort Nevis

People's Choice WINNER

 

People’s Choice Award: 

WINNER – Calypso Blue III
2nd – Shelley
3rd – (TIE) Esperanza and Panama Jack
5th – Pine Tyme
6th – Elsa
7th – Coco
8th – Estrella
9th – Anna

 

Updates from our competitors:

1ST PLACE – PANAMA JACK
Species: Leatherback
Release site: Punta Rincon Beach, Panama
Sponsor: Turtle & Hughes, Inc.
Distance traveled: 3936 km.
Update from the Field: Hey everyone, Panama Jack here! Good golly, I just can’t believe I won the Tour de Turtles! I was just splishing and splashing all over the place trying to spread the word about the importance of sea turtle friendly lighting. After I left Punta Rincon Beach in Panama, I made my way over to Mexico, where I heard there were lots of yummy jellyfish for me to snack on! As you can see, I’m a pretty big girl so it’s important that I eat lots and lots of jellyfish to maintain all this energy! Now that the marathon is over, I think I’ll just hang out in the Gulf of Mexico enjoying a nice, belly-filling buffet! Thanks for cheering me on!

P1000449 - Copy2ND PLACE – CALYPSO BLUE III
Species: Leatherback
Release site: Soropta Beach, Panama
Sponsor: Atlantis
Distance traveled: 2685 km.
Update from the field: Calypso Blue III checking in! Phew, I’ve already swam over a thousand miles but I’m not stopping anytime soon! I spent most of the marathon cruising through the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Louisiana. I even managed to stop by Bourbon Street in New Orleans to have some fun! Throughout my travels, I’ve been telling all my marine friends about how excited I am to have my migration tracked and swim for the cause of commercial trawl fisheries. Louisiana is the largest producer of shrimp in the U.S. which means there are tons of shrimp nets in this very area. Unfortunately, Louisiana hasn’t fully enforced the use of Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) on their nets. I had to get stern with a couple of fishermen but quickly befriended some that agreed to compromise with me! I think I’m going to head out of the area now just to be safe… Thanks to my friends at Atlantis for always having my shell!

3RD PLACE – ESPERANZAEsperanza2
Species: Green
Release site: Tortuguero, Costa Rica
Sponsor: Contiki Holidays & TreadRight Foundation
Cause: Egg Harvest for Consumption
Distance Traveled: 1679 km.
Update from the Field: Hola, mis amigos! Esperanza’s back to check in with my loyal fans and give a shout out to my sponsors at Contiki and TreadRight Foundation. Without their help and the support of my fans, there’s no way I would’ve found the speed to swim all the way up the ranks from 7th place to 3rd place! Afterall, don’t forget that esperanza is Spanish for hope and – against all odds -I made it onto the winners’ podium! Even though I had quite the rough start to the race with a poacher digging up my nest and stealing my eggs, my friends at STC were able to save the day and rebury my precious eggs, which just hatched in September! Thanks to everyone who cheered me on and helped raise support for the many threats my species face, especially poaching. I couldn’t have done it without you! Adios!

4TH PLACE – ESTRELLA
Species: Hawksbill
Release site: Tortuguero, Costa Rica
Sponsor: Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC)
Distance Traveled: 1549 km.
Update from the Field: Greetings, humans. Estrella here. According to my calculations, I did not swim far enough to qualify for the Tour de Turtles winner podium. Nonetheless, it’s been quite the journey! Throughout my travels, I’ve been collecting research and data off the coast of Nicaragua and what I’ve found was quite peculiar… The number of turtles that I encountered in the area was very limited. These findings may be due to the fact that it is actually legal in parts of Nicaragua to capture and consume turtles as they’re apart of the natives’ diet. Raising awareness about such issues and enforcing policies will hopefully help get my fellow turtles (and me!) off the endangered species list. Well, I’m going to kick it into high gear now and try to swim past Nicaragua… I certainly wouldn’t want to end up as someone’s dinner!

5TH PLACE – ELSAElsa-Turtle2014(15)
Release site: Disney’s Vero Beach Resort
Sponsor: Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund
Distance Traveled: 1445 km.
Update from the Field: Hello there peasants! Yes, I am Elsa, named after the queen from Disney’s Frozen. I’m here to report back to my original kingdom at Disney’s Vero Beach to discuss some of the royal duties I’ve partaken in since I left my sand castle in July. My duties took me from Vero Beach to Key Largo to Cuba, and I recycled and picked up trash and other marine debris along the way. It’s only right that the Queen pays her respects to the ocean. Naturally, I ran into some issues when trying to eat dinner the other night and mistook a plastic grocery bag for a delicious jellyfish. This is a situation that could be avoided by recycling plastics and using reusable bags. Wish me luck, I’m off to conquer my next kingdom… The Bahamas!

6TH PLACE – MELBAMelba2014-07-27 064-XL
Species: Loggerhead
Release site: Melbourne Beach, FL
Sponsor: FL Sea Turtle License Plate
Distance Traveled: 1226 km.
Update from the Field: Aloha dudes and dudettes! Melba here. Because of the gnarly waves I tried to catch while swimming, I accidentally moved all the way down from 3rd place to 6th place… But the journey was absolutely tubular! I met some fellow surfer chicks along the way and took the opportunity to teach them about a totally important cause—water quality, dude! They promised me they would work together to try and prevent oil spills and urban run-off caused by fertilizers and other chemicals so that we can safely enjoy the stellar surf for years to come! But I’m off to celebrate my Tour de Turtles success with some chill loggerhead ladies… I might even buy myself one of those rad sea turtle license plates for my carapace! Catch ya on the flip side dudes!

7TH PLACE – SHELLEYShelley2014-07-27 043-XL
Species: Loggerhead
Release site: Archie Carr Wildlife Refuge
Sponsor: Ripley’s Aquariums
Distance Traveled: 761 km.
Update from the Field: Hello darlings! You all know me as Shelley, the turtle with levels of glamour that Vogue couldn’t even handle. I won’t lie, being without my glam squad and entourage these past few months was rough but I knew my migration was raising awareness about the issue of commercial longline fisheries, and that is important. I think of the ocean as my runway and plan to continue swimming through it with grace and poise. How can I do that if I have to worry about being caught up in longline fishing? Luckily, I didn’t come across any during my travels, probably because my fabulous sponsors at Ripley’s Aquariums have been cheering me on. Even though I didn’t win the race, I’m hoping there is still a chance at a tiara. Ciao, bellas!

8TH PLACE – PINE TYMEPine Tyme TdT page
Species: Loggerhead
Release site: Marathon, Florida Keys
Sponsor: The Turtle Hospital
Distance Traveled: 684 km.
Update from the Field: For a previously injured turtle, I’ve come a long way! Mostly thanks to my great friends at The Turtle Hospital. After gaining my strength back, I traveled over 400 miles from Marathon, Florida to my current location right outside the Dry Tortugas National Park. This national park is about 70 miles off the coast of Key West and was established to protect the island and marine ecosystems. I had to duck out of the way of several speeding boats along the way so now I’m just trying to steer clear of the ferries touring the place. As a rehabilitated turtle who was also the last to enter the race, I knew I couldn’t afford another setback like a boat strike so now I’m just trying to find a nice, calm place to feed. I honestly can’t even believe I made it this far when just several months ago I was gassy and floating bottom up at The Turtle Hospital! Thanks to everyone who helped cheer me on during the marathon!

9TH PLACE – ANNAAnna
Species: Loggerhead
Release site: Disney Vero Beach Resort (DVBR)
Sponsor: Disney Animal Programs & DVBR
Distance Traveled: 672 km.
Update from the Field: Hi friends, Anna here! I successfully made my way all the way down the Florida coastline and decided to spend some time in Florida Keys. Everything during the marathon went quite swimmingly, except for this one huge storm that got me a little off track last month. I ended up along the shores of Miami, which was a very interesting place indeed. One thing I noticed is that their beachfront hotels and clubs had so many bright lights on, you could probably see them from space! I knew better and wasn’t distracted by their glow but let’s just hope my friends don’t end up drawn towards the lights when they come up to nest! After my little visit to South Beach, I got worn out from signing autographs for all my Frozen fans and set off towards Key West to relax where I plan to stay. Check back with me soon!

10TH PLACE – COCOCoco TDT
Species: Hawksbill
Release Site: Pinney’s Beach, Nevis
Sponsor: Four Seasons – Nevis
Distance Traveled: 593 km.
Update from the Field: Oh, hello there. I didn’t realize this interview was going to be published. I don’t really do well with large groups. Sorry, erm… How about a little joke to break the ice? So, um, I’m on my way to St. Kitts from Nevis and I come across what I thought were some fellow hawksbills. I’m shy enough as it is so I really had to work up the nerve to approach these guys. I try to make conversation, which is rare for me, and I’m getting no reply. I start to get more nervous as their silence lengthens. Was it something I said? Do I have a piece of sponge in my teeth? Finally, I realize I’d been talking to floating coconuts the whole time… That embarrassing encounter certainly did nothing to help me get over my social anxieties. I was also hoping for a confidence boost by winning the Tour de Turtles race, but then I just got so nervous and I decided to stay close to home where I’m most comfortable. There’s nothing wrong with last place, especially since I know the great people at Four Seasons Nevis will always cheer for me, no matter what!

11TH PLACE – SUGARsugar
Species: Hawksbill
Release site: Pinney’s Beach, Nevis
Sponsor: Four Seasons – Nevis
Distance Traveled: 517 km.
Update from the Field: Hi friends! My name is Sugar and I’m the sweetest hawksbill you’ll ever meet! During the Tour de Turtles, I got some slack from a few mean turtles about my slow pace but I couldn’t help that I enjoyed the beautiful waters of the Caribbean so much! Who said there’s anything wrong about being on island time? The water near St. Kitts is especially warm, I just hope it’s not due to climate change! I promise to do some investigating while I’m here and raise awareness about this potential threat. Now excuse me while I go enjoy a deliciously sweet drink with my friends at the Four Seasons Resort Nevis to celebrate the end of Tour de Turtles!

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Sea Turtle Conservancy would like to give a big THANK YOU to all of our great turtle sponsors for this year’s Tour de Turtles — Four Seasons Resort, NevisDisney’s Animal ProgramsDisney’s Worldwide Conservation FundDisney’s Vero Beach ResortTurtle & Hughes, Inc.Atlantis ResortRipley’s AquariumsContiki HolidaysThe TreadRight FoundationThe Turtle Hospital — and Florida’s Sea Turtle License Plate.

TdT BIC

Atlantis, Paradise Island Sponsors Tour de Turtles for Fourth Consecutive Year!

AtlantisSea Turtle Conservancy (STC) is excited to have our friends at Atlantis, Paradise Island sponsor a turtle in this year’s Tour de Turtles for the fourth year in a row! The turtles they sponsored the last two years, Calypso Blue I and Calypso Blue II, won their respective marathons and traveled over 6,400 miles both years. Atlantis is hoping the streak will continue this year with its turtle, leatherback Calypso Blue III.

The lucky name originated from a Facebook naming contest. Debra Erickson, executive director of the Atlantis Blue Project Foundation, said if Calypso Blue III wins this year “it would be like winning the Triple Crown.”

P1000449 - Copy

Calypso Blue III is swimming to raise awareness of commercial trawl fisheries.

Atlantis is a resort and water park in The Bahamas that is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. It encompasses 14 lagoons and eight million gallons of salt water that contain more than 50,000 aquatic animals as well as caves, coral formations and underwater ruins that showcase many types of marine life from sea turtles and sharks to manta rays and moray eels.

Atlantis uses its vast collection for education and conservation efforts through the Atlantis Blue Project. “The Atlantis Blue Project started over seven years ago with the goal of using scientific research, education and public outreach to help protect our oceans,” Erickson said. “The project’s focus today is saving sea species and their habitats throughout The Bahamas and the Caribbean seas.”

Atlantis’ involvement in Tour de Turtles is part of that conservation effort. Erickson said that after 15 years of sea turtle display, breeding and conservation, Atlantis began to look for a way to expand its sea turtle conservation efforts through both research and public education and communications.

It was determined that Tour de Turtles was the perfect program to reach those goals, according to Erickson, because it “enables scientists to collect invaluable data on sea turtle migration while at the same time educating the public on the challenges that sea turtles face from ocean debris to boat strikes.”

Atlantis has continued to sponsor a turtle in the marathon for the past four years because of the program’s high level of engagement, Erickson said. It enables many individuals to follow sea turtles’ migration on a daily basis and spread the information through social media as well as allowing scientists to use the data collected to better understand and manage sea turtle species.

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Calypso Blue III was released on May 27, 2014 from Sorpota Beach, Panama.

Erickson said, “We are looking forward to this year’s Tour de Turtles and seeing the results at the end of the race. The program allows Atlantis to continue its commitment to sea turtle conservation and gives us an opportunity to engage our guests and involve them in helping to preserve sea turtles.”

In addition to Tour de Turtles, Atlantis actively participates in other sea turtle conservation efforts. Each year, Atlantis’ Aquarists collect over 1,200 eggs laid by female turtles on its beach, place the eggs in replica nests at its Fish Hospital and release the young out on the beach once they hatch.

STC would like to thank Atlantis for its constant support! We can’t wait to see if Calypso Blue III carries on the winning streak.

Introducing the 2014 Tour de Turtles Competitors!

Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) began its 2014 Tour de Turtles (TdT) with a live sea turtle release on July 27th at the Barrier Island Center, located in the heart of the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge in Melbourne Beach, Florida. The marathon is a fun and educational journey through the science of sea turtle migration using satellite telemetry. This year 12 turtles, who are each swimming to raise awareness about a sea turtle cause, are competing to see who will travel the farthest in the next three months.

Meet the competitors below!

Panama Jack

Name: Panama Jack
Species: Leatherback
Release site: Punta Rincon Beach, Panama
Sponsor: Turtle & Hughes, Inc.
Cause: Light pollution
Stats: 145.0 cm in curved carapace (shell) length and 108.0 cm in curved carapace width
Fun Fact: Returned and nested again on July 15.
Read my full bioadopt me, or view my migration map!

Calypso Blue III

Name: Calypso Blue III
Species: Leatherback
Release site: Soropta Beach, Panama
Sponsor: Atlantis
Cause: Commercial Trawl Fisheries
Stats: 144.6 cm in curved carapace (shell) length and 108.0 cm curved carapace width
Fun Fact: Laid 53 fertile eggs and 36 yokeless eggs.
Read my full bioadopt me, or view my migration map!

Esperanza

Name: Esperanza
Species: Green
Release site: Tortuguero, Costa Rica
Sponsor: TreadRight Contiki
Cause: Egg Poaching
Stats: 104.9 cm in curved carapace
Fun Fact: The morning after she laid her eggs, her nest was poached and eggs stolen. Luckily, the police caught the poacher and returned the eggs to STC’s team, who quickly and carefully reburied them in a new location.
Read my full bioadopt me, or view my migration map!

Estrella

Name: Estrella
Species: Hawksbill
Release site: Tortuguero, Costa Rica
Sponsor: STC
Cause: Illegal Shell Trade
Stats: 80.9 cm in curved carapace length
Fun Fact: Estrella is the first hawksbill from Tortuguero to compete in the TdT!
Read my full bio, adopt me, or view my migration map!

Melba

Name: Melba
Species: Loggerhead
Release site: Melbourne Beach, FL
Sponsor: FL Sea Turtle License Plate
Cause: Water Quality
Stats: 101.8 cm in curved carapace length, 88.5 cm in curved carapace width
Fun Fact: Melba ranks in the Top 5 largest loggerheads STC has ever released and has one of the largest heads.
Read my full bioadopt me, or view my migration map!

Shelley

Name: Shelley
Species: Loggerhead
Release site: Melbourne Beach, FL
Sponsor: Ripley’s Aquariums
Cause: Commercial Longline Fisheries
Stats: 89.9 cm in curved carapace length and 85.3 cm in curved carapace width
Fun Fact: Shelley is the 22nd loggerhead STC has released from the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge!
Read my full bioadopt me, or view my migration map!

Anna

Name: Anna
Species: Loggerhead
Release site: Disney’s Vero Beach Resort (DVBR)
Sponsor: Disney’s Animal Programs & DVBR
Cause: Light Pollution
Stats: 84.7 cm in curved carapace length, 76.0 cm in curved carapace width
Fun Fact: Anna is named after the character from Disney’s “Frozen.”
Read my full bioadopt me, or view my migration map!

Elsa

Name: Elsa
Species: Loggerhead
Release site: Disney’s Vero Beach Resort
SponsorDisney Worldwide Conservation Fund
Cause: Marine Debris
Stats: 100.4 cm in curved carapace length, 90.7 cm in curved carapace width
Fun Fact: Elsa is named after the character from Disney’s “Frozen.”
Read my full bioadopt me, or view my migration map!

Coco

Name: Coco
Species: Hawksbill
Release site: Pinney’s Beach, Nevis
SponsorFour Seasons Resort Nevis
Cause: Illegal Shell Trade
Stats: 88.9 cm in curved carapace length
Fun Fact: Coco’s name was selected and voted on by Four Seasons’ Instagram and Facebook followers.
Read my full bioadopt me, or view my migration map!

Sugar

Name: Sugar
Species: Hawksbill
Release site: Pinney’s Beach, Nevis
SponsorFour Seasons Resort Nevis
Cause: Climate Change
Stats: 82.0 cm in curved carapace length, 76.5 cm curved carapace width
Fun Fact: Sugar already had flipper tags when STC found her nesting. It was determined that she was originally tagged by the Nevis Turtle Group in 2007!
Read my full bioadopt me, or view my migration map!

Pine Tyme

Name: Pine Tyme
Species: Loggerhead (sub-adult)
Release site: Sombrero Beach, FL
SponsorThe Turtle Hospital
Cause: Boat Strikes
Stats: 80 lbs.
Fun Fact: Pine Tyme is a rehabbed turtle who was rescued near Big Pine Key, FL. She is currently being treated for severe gas in her intestines, which prohibits her from diving for food.
Read my full bioadopt me, or view my migration map!

Green Power Helps Save Sea Turtles In Panama

A state-of-the-art clean solar energy system is helping Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) protect endangered sea turtles at its new research station on Soropta Beach, Panama. Designed and installed by FTL Global Solutions (FTL), an innovator of lightweight, rugged energy systems for use in remote areas, this reliable green energy system now supplies power for lighting, security, water and cooking needs as STC biologists work throughout the night protecting endangered leatherback turtles and their hatchlings at one of the most important nesting beaches for this species in the Atlantic.

Leatherback hatchlings at Chiriqui, Panama.

Leatherback hatchlings at Chiriqui, Panama.

Soropta Beach, a remote black-sand beach on Panama’s Caribbean coast, is home to a large nesting colony of leatherback sea turtles. Unfortunately, for years Soropta’s leatherbacks and their nests have been illegally harvested by poachers who kill the turtles for their meat and raid nests to steal the eggs. STC‘s conservation program is helping prevent poaching by protecting nests, monitoring nesting activity, and building support for turtle conservation with the local community.  The work takes place out of a rustic station, where the lack of electricity made the work extremely challenging – until now.

“The new solar energy system installed by FTL Global Solutions is making our conservation efforts more effective and safe,” said STC executive director David Godfrey.

Leatherback sea turtle in Soropta Beach, Panama.

Leatherback sea turtle in Soropta Beach, Panama.

STC‘s conservation efforts at Soropta began in 2013, when it acquired an old farm house and began upgrading it to accommodate a year-round turtle protection program. STC then hired and trained local community members to assist with the research and conservation work.  Without a year-round conservation presence at Soropta, poachers would move back in and threaten the survival of this important nesting colony.

“Acquiring solar energy at a remote place like Soropta Beach could not have been done without the expert advice and assistance of FTL,” said Godfrey. “Their team guided us through the process; helped deliver the system to our remote station and even sent an expert to install the system and train our staff in its use and maintenance.”

New FTL Solar Panels

New FTL Solar Panels

“What makes the lighting so powerful is what it brings to Soropta,” said FTL spokesperson Paul Murphy. “The lighting extends the useful working day allowing the teams to achieve much more during each day, plus the social cohesion it brings to Soropta is incredible.”

The FTL solar energy system now provides critical power needs to the station’s various buildings where staff members live, work and eat. Running water is now supplied to a restroom and shower facility, and the station compound and dock now have security lighting in place.

“The first evening the lights were in and turned on was the first evening that the teams actually sat around the table after dinner and just talked,” said Murphy. “The camaraderie was a delight to watch, the joy on faces when the lights were turned on for dinner was moving. What FTL brings is more than just a lighting solution– it’s a life changing solution.”

STC Staff at the Soropta Station

STC Staff at the Soropta Station

Although improperly managed artificial lights can disorient nesting turtles and their hatchlings, STC has used the latest turtle-friendly lighting technology throughout the Soropta station. All lights use red LED technology and are completely shielded from view on the beach. Using such technology, it is possible to provide light for human needs and safety on the beach without disturbing nesting sea turtles and other coastal wildlife.

In addition to FTL contributing their expertise and reducing the cost of the system installation, STC would also like to thank our Board of Directors as well as the IC Corporation and their foundation, IC Cares, for financial assistance with this project. IC Corporation has offices in Panama and provides support for STC’s sea turtle work at Soropta Beach.

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Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC))About Sea Turtle Conservancy: Sea Turtle Conservancy is an international nonprofit and the world’s oldest marine turtle research and conservation organization. Founded in 1959, Sea Turtle Conservancy is dedicated to ensuring the survival of sea turtles through research, education, advocacy and the protection of natural habitats upon which they depend. Learn more at www.conserveturtles.org.

About FTL Global Solutions: FTL Global Solutions provides lightweight, mobile and highly ruggedized lighting systems for commercial, defense and humanitarian requirement located in remote areas. They founded the FTL Global Outreach Initiative to provide off grid power solutions to schools, orphanages, medical clinics and conservation programs around the world.  Learn more at www.ftlglobal.net. FTL Global Solutions

 

Beyond Sea Turtles: Building Community-based Conservation Models (and helping several sloths in need)

Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) believes that community involvement and buy-in are among the most important components to ensuring the success of long-term conservation efforts. Recent events near one of our field sites in Panama showed us that by involving the local communities in their own conservation efforts, we have helped spread a much wider conservation movement, one that stretches beyond sea turtles to other endangered species… like sloths!

But what exactly do sea turtles have to do with sloths?

Since 2003, STC has worked to protect sea turtles at different critical nesting sites in the Bocas del Toro Province of Panama. Most of the local communities historically depended on these turtles as a staple of food or income. STC has worked to educate and involve local communities in monitoring, research and tourism ventures, investing in sustainable livelihoods.

Pygmy Three-toed Sloth

Rare pygmy three-toed sloth. Photo by Shannon Thomas

While the beaches of Bocas del Toro are important nesting sites for endangered leatherback and hawksbills, the mangroves of a nearby island are home to the incredibly rare pygmy three-toed sloth. This species of sloth is found nowhere else in the world and there are only 79 documented sloths remaining. This species is classified by the IUCN as Critically Endangered.

On September 9, STC’s field staff in Bocas del Toro were contacted to help settle a situation at the local airport. Local community members were trying to prevent eight of these incredibly rare sloths from being removed from the wild and shipped to private zoos in the U.S. and Panama City. Six were to be taken to the Dallas World Aquarium (DWA) and two to a zoo in Panama City.

DWA previously used sloths as a photo prop for weddings and other events.

DWA previously used sloths as a photo prop for weddings and other events.

DWA claimed that bringing the sloths to the zoo was part of an ongoing conservation project. They were going to attempt captive breeding and then reintroduce the sloths bred in captivity back into the wild. While this might sound like a great idea, removing 10% of the remaining wild population could actually have serious repercussions on the already small gene pool and previous attempts of reintroducing sloths into the wild have not yielded much success.

The community was furious at this attempt to remove a local natural resource and demanded the sloths be returned to their natural habitat. This passionate reaction from the community showed a significant shift in local attitudes about wildlife conservation. Not long ago the local communities might have seen the sloth as commonplace or a source of food. Now the community was taking action to protect the endangered species.

The protest put pressure on authorities to detain the flight that was meant to take the sloths to Panama City. The community demanded that if DWA wanted to perform research on the sloths, that they do so in situ “as the turtle people do.” STC’s work in the region was highlighted as an appropriate example for onsite conservation and research with little intervention while involving the community.

STC staff carefully release a sloth back into the mangrove forests.

STC staff carefully release a sloth back into the mangrove forests. Photo by Shannon Thomas

A DWA representative finally announced they would not export the sloths. On September 10, STC field staff loaded the sloths on their boat along with a group of local citizens and representatives of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. The group helped the sloths climb back into the branches of the mangroves they call home.

This sloth incident was an indicator of the growing environmental ethic spreading through Bocas del Toro, highlighting the power of communities to protect and advocate for the appropriate use of their natural resources. It was a vibrant reminder of the importance of involving communities in conservation efforts. STC is pleased to see that the impact of its conservation efforts has moved beyond sea turtles, providing community-based conservation models that can be replicated in the region to protect other endangered species.

If you’d like to watch more videos of STC staff releasing these sloths back into the wild, head to our YouTube page! For a more detailed story on the sloth saga, stay tuned for the next issue of STC’s newsletter, The Velador, which will be sent out later this fall.