Panama Marine Turtle Conservation Project in Malena
This project aims to raise money to support a grassroots group in the country of Panama that has been working to protect marine turtle eggs deposited every year on a beach in their town. The group, Grupo de conservación de tortugas de Malena, has been working for 12 years. It’s entirely lead and organized by local people in the small town of Malena, on the Pacific coast of the province of Veraguas on the western face of the Azuero peninsula. The group very vigorously protects freshly deposited turtle nests against both other people and animals, moving the eggs to the protection of a fenced-in enclosure maintained by the group. Each batch of eggs is defined by its own wire enclosure (see photo 2). When the eggs begin to hatch, indicated by sand slumping in the middle of the enclosure, hatchlings are dug out and allowed to cross the beach in to the surf. The group has the support of ANAM, the environmental protection agency of the Republic of Panama.
Money raised will assist with replacing and maintaining the fenced-in beach compound for transplanted nests. This compound must be moved up and down the beach from year to year so that diseases and parasites of the eggs won’t become established in one place where the eggs are always placed. Turtle species such as the Olive Ridley sea turtle that use the beach for nesting take 15 years to reach sexual maturity, so the first turtles protected by the group 12 years ago should soon return to their birth beach to deposit their own eggs. A batch of eggs can be as large as 100, taking 50-60 days to incubate and hatch. Olive Ridleys have a life span of 30-50 years, so once they are mature they can return to their birth beach many times to deposit eggs.
Money raised will be brought to Panama in May and given directly to the group in Malena.
I am with the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. My professional interest is broadly aquatic ecology, especially the reproductive biology of North American stream fishes. I am a past President of the North American Native Fishes Association (NANFA). In the past several years I have been conducting field research on freshwater fishes in Panama.