STC Programs: Environmental Education: Bocas del Toro, Panama

Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) has been conducting sea turtle research and conservation in the Bocas del Toro Region, Panama since 2003. STC’s main focus was to learn more about sea turtles and protect endangered populations by collecting and analyzing data.

In 2007, STC began incorporating Environmental Education and Outreach Programs (EEOP) in STC’s efforts to protect the sea turtle nesting populations in the Bocas del Toro Region. From an educational perspective, sea turtles can help conservationists achieve and enhance environmental awareness on people, as they have the power to change environmental attitudes; therefore, it is incredibly valuable to use them as ambassadors of marine ecosystems.

The premises on which the STC’s Bocas del Toro Educational work is based are:

  • Working together with communities
  • Establishing constant and long-term projects
  • Evaluating educational and outreach projects
  • Working with strategic alliances / key actors
  • Working from a socioeconomic, cultural and environmental perspective

The main environmental issues in Bocas del Toro are:

  • A lack of environmental attitude, non-sustainable consumption habits.
  • Waste management (overuse, lack of knowledge on consequences, non-effective pick-up, no recycling…).
  • Natural disconnection (lack of nature’s respect, little contact with the forest, coral reefs, sea grass and mangroves)
  • Impact on the population of sea turtles (egg and meat consumption, light pollution, quads on the beach).
  • Impact on marine ecosystems (overfishing, reef pollution, human pressure…)
  • Lack of water (overuse, droughts)
  • Non-sustainable tourism (sun&beach, party)
  • Social problems (lack of leisure alternatives, unstructured homes, low self-esteem …).

STC is working to address environmental issues in Bocas through:

  • Conservation of marine turtles (biology, threats, habitats, satellite telemetry …)
  • Waste Management (reduction, impacts, reuse, separation …)
  • Sustainability (consumption)
  • Environment connection (concepts, observation, integration …)
  • Marine and terrestrial ecosystems (ecology, trophic networks, threats, biodiversity …)

The main educational programs that STC has developed in Bocas del Toro are:

  • Junior Assistant Program: Young people from the Rio Caña community embark voluntarily on this adventure that will allow them to work directly with sea turtles in their nesting habitat. In addition, they receive a complete course with theory and personal research projects.
  • Zero Waste group: A community group formed by the local government, businesses, NGOs and civil society, which has made proposals at a legislative and educational level, achieving formal agreements for plastic bag banning at supermarkets, or foam containers to eat in the restaurants, among others.
  • Summer Camps: Summer vacation programs for primary students over 2 months, with an environmental focus and as a leisure alternative, including trips to coral reefs, the beach and the town of Bocas del Toro.
  • Ecotourism Program at Bluff Beach: Visitation tourism program at Bluff Beach, Isla Colon, with the aim that people learn about sea turtles and their threats, as well as they presence the adult female nesting process at the beach. The STC trains the guides and coordinates these tours which guarantees they are made respectfully and responsibly with the animal’s natural cycle.
  • Collaborations/Organizing fairs/festivals: The STC organizes and participates annually in community events, as “World Sea Turtle Day”, “The Sea Fair”, “The Earth Fair”, among others.
  • Office/Visitor’s Center: A small space with an exhibition where the STC develops its office work and receives visitors interested in knowing more about our work and sea turtles in Bocas del Toro. Opened approximately from Monday to Saturday,  9 am to 5 pm. More information about STC’s Bocas del Toro office.

Information on how to start an “Environmental Education Program.”

For more information about STC’s educational work in Bocas del Toro, email: outreachpanama@conserveturtles.org