Local Ecological Knowledge Supports Identification of Sea Turtle Nesting Beaches in Panama
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Local Ecological Knowledge Supports Identification of Sea Turtle Nesting Beaches in Panama

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  • Description:
    We report on a study of previously un-surveyed sea turtle nesting beaches in an isolated region of the Azuero Peninsula in central Pacific Panama. The initial identification was based on information collected during semi-structured interviews (n = 21) in 12 communities. These engagements gauged local ecological knowledge (LEK) with emphasis on the critically endangered Leatherback Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea). Interview responses identified 22 beaches with sea turtle nesting activity. From these, we surveyed nine beaches: Cacajilloso, El Gato, Sandillal, Colorado 2, Sierra, Granada, Frijoles, Verde, and Horcones beaches. Nesting activity was documented by observing crawl tracks on the beach and/or directly encountering female turtles. In total, we observed 128 crawl tracks representing two species: Green Turtles (Chelonia mydas, n = 92) and Olive Ridley Turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea, n = 36). We also directly encountered Green Turtles (n = 16), Olive Ridley Turtles (n = 25), and Hawksbill Turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata, n = 2) during surveys. Olive Ridley Turtles had the most widespread nesting activity (six of nine beaches), followed by Green Turtles (four of nine beaches) and Hawksbills Turtles (two of nine beaches). We saw no evidence of Leatherback Turtle nesting, despite LEK suggesting the species had previously nested at several of the surveyed beaches; this lack of evidence is consistent with its critically low (and still declining) population size in the eastern Pacific. In addition to highlighting the value of LEK, our study provides novel information on the distribution and abundance of sea turtles in remote areas in Panama.
  • Source:
    Herpetological Conservation and Biology, 16(2)
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