New Community Outreach Program

Issue 2, 2015

New Community Outreach Program

By Georgina Zamora Quilez

Since 2003, STC has worked to protect sea turtles at several critical nesting sites in the archipelago of Bocas del Toro and the Comarca Ngäbe Bugle—a remote protected area inhabited by the indigenous Ngäbe people of Panama. Located on the Caribbean coast of Panama, Bocas del Toro (Bocas) is a tropical paradise made up of beautiful, white sand beaches crystal clear waters. Tourists love the view and the laid back lifestyle, surfers enjoy the waves, and the beaches host globally important nesting colonies of endangered leatherback and hawksbill turtles.

But beyond the picturesque landscapes is a community struggling to maintain its diverse ecosystems due to a long history of unsustainable use of resources and neglect of the environment by both residents and tourists alike. If habits are not changed soon, much of what makes Bocas so special could be lost. Poorly managed tourism activities, inadequate waste management, poor sewage treatment, increasing boat traffic, and overconsumption of plastic are just some of the factors affecting this incredible place.
STC refuses to ignore these issues and is working to ensure that Bocas retains its natural beauty and continues to host healthy sea turtle populations. STC’s efforts include an Environmental Education and Outreach Program in which we connect local residents and visitors with the region’s natural resources to try and build a greater sense of environmental stewardship and pride.

Within this program, STC discusses not only sea turtles, but also other issues that affect and damage the surrounding environment. The goal is to provoke a change in people’s everyday attitudes, thus generating basic values such as respect and love for nature.

To accomplish this, STC carries out projects that will empower children in the different communities and lead to a real and sustained change in the region. STC’s work plan for this year will focus on sea turtle conservation issues, waste reduction and responsible consumption habits, among other topics.

STC’s long-term goal is to further educate and involve local communities in sea turtle monitoring, research and tourism ventures, investing in sustainable livelihoods.