Darien Gap-Choco region of Panama & Colombia

This program focuses on identifying important hawksbill nesting and foraging sites along the Darien Gap-Choco regions of Panama and Colombia, respectively. This area represents the largest remaining data void in the eastern Pacific and this program is the first direct effort to evaluate hawksbill (and other sea turtle) habitat across this extensive stretch of coast.

As a first step, coastal surveys/interviews were carried out with local inhabitants across the region to glean information on the presence and prevalence of hawksbills. Through these surveys, the conservation team has been able to identify four key nesting sites, including two in Panama and two in Colombia, where hundreds of hawksbill nests are reportedly deposited annually. The program’s next step is to monitor the sites to confirm and quantify nesting.

There is a high degree of difficulty and extreme challenges associated with this program as the Darien Gap-Choco region is the most remote, desolate and hard to reach area in the eastern Pacific, presenting huge transportation, communication and other logistical challenges. The nearest communities, which themselves are extremely remote, are more than two hours (by boat) from the nesting beaches. Furthermore, finding personal willing to work in these isolated conditions and to do so properly is also very difficult. Nonetheless, the importance of carrying out the program is crucial as the region represents the last major void in knowledge of hawksbills (and all sea turtle species) along the eastern Pacific coastline. This is the driving factor behind our passionate desire to carryout this work.


  • Conduct interviews to determine the current conservation state of conservation of hawksbill turtles in coastal communities of southeastern Pacific Panama (Darien) and northern Pacific Colombian (Chocó).
  • Raise awareness among key actors in the Darien-Chocó area on the plight confronting hawksbills and the importance of conservation for the benefit of local communities.
  • Identify and priortize areas to focus conservation of hawksbills and their hábitats along the Pacific coast of Panama and Colombia.


Identification of potentially critical nesting hawksbill sites where future research can be focused on verifying nesting levels.

Exploration of one of the largest “final frontiers” along the eastern Pacific coast.

Raise awareness among local indigenous communities.


Conservation strategies used by this project site:

In-water Monitoring

Outreach and Education

Exploratory Habitat Investigations

ICAPO’s Role with Implementing Organization

  • Communication with other organizations (information link)
  • Access funding sources
  • Funding proposals
  • Joint management (planning and implementation, reporting)
  • Technical advising (capacity-building, training, protocol/methodology development)
  • Research and publications collaboration