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Cañas Island is a wildlife refuge located on the Azuero Peninsula‘s southern coast, in the Tonosi district of the Los Santos Province. The island has a permanent population of approximately 700 inhabitants and offers basic supplies such as electricity, drinking water, a school, health center, police station as well as small restaurants and accommodation.
Cañas Island is surrounded by approximately 3,000 acres of different mangroves, such as red mangrove, white mangrove, black mangrove, conocarpus erectus and pelliciera rhizophoreae. The island is also home to different species of sea birds – pelicans, fregatebirds, herons – and mammals such as monkeys, wildcats and racoons. Cañas Island is an excellent destination for eco-tourism as its main attraction is sea turtle watching from july to january aproximately. Five species of turtles – leatherback, hawkspill, green turtle, loggerhead and olive ridley – arrive on the 14km of protected beaches to lay their eggs.
On Cañas Island a couple of times each year visitors may observe the phenomenon called “arribada”. During an “arribada” a large quantity of olive ridley sea turtles – usually thousands of animals – arrive on the same night to lay their eggs. This phenomenon is unique to the olive ridley turtles and is considered a natural survival mechanism of this species. By nesting individually – as they sometimes do – the eggs are much more likely to be found and eaten by animals or men, while by doing it in group, the species guarantees the survival of a larger number of eggs and therefore the species. Currently, the phenomenon of the “arribada” is only documented on 11 beaches worldwide, 2 of them being in Panama: Cañas Island and Playa La Marinera just a few miles West of Cañas.