ABS 2022
Local Ecological Knowledge Supports identification of Sea Turtle Nesting Beaches in Panama
Eric E. Flores1,2,3, Joelbin R. De La Cruz1,4, Jeffrey A. Seminoff5, Luis D. Ureņa1. 1Panama Wildlife Conservation, London, London, United Kingdom; 2INDICASAT AIP, Panama, Panama, Panama; 3Coiba Scientific Station (COIBA AIP), Panama, Panama, Panama; 4Ministry of Environment of Panama, Panama, Panama, Panama; 5NOAA-Southwest Fisheries Science Center, La Jolla, California, United States

Here we report on 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. We surveyed nine beaches: Cacajilloso, El Gato, Sandillal, Colorado 2, Sierra, Granada, Frijoles, Verde and Horcones beaches. In total, we encountered 128 beach crawl tracks among two species, including Green Turtles (Chelonia mydas, n = 92) and Olive Ridley Turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea, n = 36). We also directly observed Green Turtles (n = 16), Olive Ridleys (n = 25), and Hawksbill Turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata, n = 2) during surveys. Olive Ridleys had the most widespread nesting activity (6/9 beaches), followed by Green Turtles (4/9 beaches) and Hawksbill Turtles (2/9 beaches). We saw no evidence of Leatherback nesting. 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