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    Posted January 10, 2012 by
    Panama, Panama

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    Elon Grad Students help Panamanian Foundation Save Sea Turtles


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     colorachel says she and her classmates are working on a website for a foundation that helps protect sea turtles in Panama. The students are spending nine days in Panama for the project.
    - davidw, CNN iReport producer

    Elon interactive media graduate students are in Panama creating an interactive website for Tortuguias, the first foundation in that country dedicated to raising awareness about the environment and the plight of sea turtles.

    The students have visited sea turtle nests in Punta Chame and La Mariera, speaking with foundation leaders and a government biologist about the importance of sea turtles to the environment and communities in Panama.

    Five of the seven species of sea turtles in the world come to Panama to lay their eggs. This past year, thousands of turtles laid more than a million eggs on the Pacific and Caribbean coasts of Panama, according to biologist Marino Abrego from the Panamanian Authority for Aquatic Resources (ARAP).

    The Kemp's Ridley sea turtle is one of these five species of sea turtles returning yearly to the beaches of Panama. There are only 12 locations in the world where this turtle lays its eggs and two of these locations are in Panama.
    Sea turtles are an important part of the marine ecology and local economies in Panama. According to Abrego, sea turtles' diet consists mainly of jellyfish. Without the sea turtle, the jellyfish would overpopulate the area and consume more fish larvae, which would hurt the adult fish population and thus the local fishermen.

    Tortuguias president Carla Ortiz works to raise awareness in these local communities about the importance of sea turtles like the Kemp's Ridley. The foundation runs summer classes to teach schoolchildren the importance of environmental stewardship.

    Ortiz and Abrego are very excited about the new web presence the Elon students will create for Tortugias. They believe that by raising awareness, the foundation will gain more headway in their fight to save these turtles from extinction.
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