Sea Turtle Project

So cute. So huge. So endangered.

The San San-Pond Sak Sea Turtle Project in Panama

Wow, Leatherback turtles can grow to 2 meters in length! But that’s only if they survive to make the mad dash to the sea as tiny hatchlings. And that’s where our Panamanian friends from COOBANA come in. They support the local conservation centre and by patrolling the beaches for several months each year, they have helped to save 12,000 eggs and safely release 8,100 baby turtles to the water.

Meet COOBANA – and experience a little bit of paradise too

Fyffes works with growers and organisations in many different locations and it's important to us that our partners have similar values and a commitment to care for their communities and environment. In Panama, Fyffes has partnered with COOBANA – the banana cooperative in Changuinola – to grow some of the finest Fairtrade bananas in Central America. Changuinola is in the northeast of Panama, a truly beautiful region full of stunning flora and fauna.

Very close by is the amazing San San-Pond Sak wetland lagoon. It is home to exciting animals such as parrots, hawks, herons, West Indian manatees, sloths, iguanas, monkeys, sea turtles and snakes. If you are around you should not miss out on a boat trip to meet all these great animals!

Here – in the middle of paradise - COOBANA supports the local conservation centre to protect the diverse wildlife in the region. A key initiative is the protection of the largest turtles on earth, the Leatherback. Sadly, the Leatherback population is rapidly declining in many parts of the world and egg looting is a big problem. But a team drawn from the University of Technology of Bocas del Toro, University of Panamá, the Ministry of Environment, Panamá Verde and COOBANA has brought to life a special program to protect the Leatherback turtles that nest on the beach.

Did you know?

Big, bigger, biggest: Leatherbacks are the largest turtles on Earth, growing to over 2 meters long and weighing in at 600kg!

Let´s name it: While all other sea turtles have hard, bony shells, the inky-blue carapace of the Leatherback is somewhat flexible and strengthened by thousands of tiny bone plates that makes it look “leathery”.

Diving at its best: Leatherbacks can dive to depths of 1,250 meters – deeper than any other turtle – and can stay down for up to 85 minutes.

What is the program about?

After mating at sea, Leatherback females come ashore to nest during the breeding season. The nighttime ritual involves excavating a hole in the sand, depositing around 80 eggs, filling the nest, leaving a large, disturbed area of sand that makes detection by predators difficult, and finally returning to the sea. During this period a huge team of volunteers ensure the protection of the nests to increase the number of survivals.

Round about 184 days of monitoring night controls are carried out every year – with the support of national and international volunteers, where in total 229 people participated.

Also a special nursery station has been prepared: 10 m² of land was selected, marked and cleaned. Then a 1 meter dep pit was dug, where the sand sieves were placed, and the land was fenced.

And very important: an environmental education and awareness program focused on students of schools in the Changuinola area raised awareness and support for the program.

What a success.

Every year these activities make it possible to move and protect the nests and eggs of the Leatherback turtle - and also those of species such as Baula, Carey, Cabezona and Blanca.

In 2017 over 12.000 eggs were protected and over 8.100 baby turtles were released. How great is that?