Weekly Wildlife Spotlight: Hawksbill Sea Turtle
Hawksbill – Named for its narrow head and hawk-like beak.
20,000 – 23,000 nesting females.
Where To Find Them:
Hawksbills are mostly found in the tropical and subtropical waters of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. The Hawksbill’s narrow head and beak-shaped jaws allow it to get food from crevices in coral reefs. They eat sponges, anemones, squid and shrimp.
Hawksbills are typically found around coastal reefs, rocky areas, estuaries and lagoons. They nest at intervals of 2-4 years and usually nest between 3-6 times per season. An adult female will usually lay an average of 160 eggs per nest, these eggs will incubate for a period of about 60 days.
How to Spot Them:
The Hawksbill is among the smallest in the sea turtle family. Its head is narrow, has two pairs of scales in front of its eyes and a serrated jaw. An adult Hawksbill typically weigh 100-155 pounds (46-70 kg.) and measures 2.5-3 feet (71-89 cm) in length.
The shell of the Hawksbill is elliptical in shape and its flippers each have two claws. Its shell is typically orange, brown, or yellow, while the shells of hatchlings are mostly brown with pale blotches on their scales.
IUCN Redlist Status:
Hawksbill sea turtles are listed as Endangered (in danger of extinction within the foreseeable future) in the U.S. and Critically Endangered (facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild in the immediate future) internationally. The greatest threat to the Hawksbill sea turtle is hunting for their prized shell, often referred to as “tortoise shell.” In some countries the shell is still used to make hair ornaments, jewelry, and other decorative items.
How We’re Helping:
Not long ago, most researchers thought hawksbills had been eliminated from the eastern Pacific Ocean. Recent discoveries and new projects have changed the conservation outlook for this endangered species and inspired hope for its recovery. Of all the sea turtle conservation issues, the protection of Hawksbills in the eastern Pacific is one of the most pressing. The current low nesting numbers indicate that the turtle species is unlikely to survive without outside action and conservation efforts.
We are working to bring more awareness to the current plight of the Hawksbill by organizing beach patrols to protect eggs and ward off poachers, tracking sightings of the turtles in our partnership with Sea Turtle Conservancy, as well as teaching the PADI Project AWARE Sea Turtle Awareness Distinct Specialty Course to those who join us in our programs and expeditions. With your help, we are striving to bring the Hawksbill back from the brink of extinction.
Five Most Common Sea Turtles Found in Panama
Leatherback Sea Turtle
Leatherback sea turtles are the oldest and rarest turtles in Panama, and are the largest of the five sea turtle families. They are one of at least four sea turtle species found nesting on the beaches of Coiba Island. Leatherbacks are listed as VULNERABLE on the IUCN Red List.
Green Sea Turtle
The Green sea turtle is one of the largest sea turtle species. An average Green sea turtle can weigh as much as 700 pounds and can grow up to 5 feet in length. They are listed as ENDANGERED on the IUCN Red List.
Hawksbill Sea Turtle
Hawksbill sea turtles are some of the smallest among the sea turtle species, reaching a maximum of 300 pounds and 3 feet in length. Hawksbills are considered by many to be the most beautiful of the sea turtle family for their colorful shells. Their vibrant color patterns make them highly sought after by poachers. The Hawksbill sea turtle is listed as CRITICALLY ENDANGERED on the IUCN Red List.
Olive Ridley Sea Turtle
The Olive Ridley sea turtle is one of the most abundantly found species of sea turtle found in Panama and in Coiba National Park. Because they are listed as VULNERABLE on the IUCN Red List, it is important for researchers and conservationists to monitor them and their nesting sites within the park.
Loggerhead Sea Turtle
The Loggerhead sea turtle is aptly named for its exceptionally large head. Loggerheads are listed as VULNERABLE on the IUCN Red List and are one of at least four species of sea turtle known to nest on Isla Coiba.
New Poison Dart Species Found in Panama
Researchers from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and two Latin American Universities have confirmed the discovery of a new species of poison dart frog.
The new frog, named “Andinobates geminisae”, bears a striking resemblance to the strawberry poison dart frog (Oophaga pumilio). Researchers believe the new species may have been observed in the past, but was likely confused with Oophaga.
According to Cesar Jaramillo, a Smithsonian herpetologist, “Based on morphological characteristics of the adult and the tadpole, I thought it might be a new species of Andinobates.”
A. geminisae was found in the district of Donoso, Colón Province, Panama. The new species appears to be present solely in this geographical region, leading researchers to caution against deforestation or depletion of its natural habitat. Special conservation plans are also recommended to ensure this species’s long-term survival.