A Bright Future for Rainforest Preservation in Dolphin Bay

There will be 100 acres of rainforest preservation in Dolphin Bay thanks to a donation by Ted Hannig to the Institute of Tropical Ecology and Conservation.  

Pete of ITEC and Ted Hannig posing at Ted Hannig's dolphin bay preserve

Dr. Peter Lahanas, Director of the non-profit organization, the Institute for Tropical Ecology and Conservation,(“ITEC”) (left side) announced today that this December his organization received a donation of 100 acres of primary growth rainforest land forming a peninsula in Dolphin Bay, Bocas del Toro, Panama.  The property was donated for permanent ecological preservation by Ted Hannig, a resident of California but also an occasional resident in the  Bocas del Toro area (right side).  Hannig has served as steward for the property for over 15 years, becoming the owner some 7 years ago.  The most conservative appraisal placed the current value of the donated land at $3 million.  Because of the rare trees and animals, other estimates have the value at several times that — up to $14 million.

Ted Hannig standing in front of a massive tree

Ted Hannig on his Dolphin Bay Preserve

Hannig commented “to me the dollar value is almost irrelevant, as the Preserve is truly irreplaceable it is priceless”.

Hannig transferred physical possession at a ceremony at the Preserve property on December 30, 2021.

Dr. Pete, as he is known by his friends, remarked that the property contains the finest stand of mature rainforest in the archipelago.  Several years ago he had the opportunity to visit the property known as Dolphin Bay Preserve — and it was love at first sight.

In his view, not only does the property provide a rain forest home for a rain forest research station, it also provides opportunities for coral reef observation and restoration, wild dolphin observation and protection as well as studies related to climate change and natural carbon sequestration.

Hannig has a similar love for the property.  “This property has always had a special place in my life and heart, so much so that I am truly humbled to know that this land will now be preserved for generations to come.”  Hannig has made over 50 trips from the United States to the Preserve in Panama. In 2005 Hannig was part of a professional team brought by his client to scout Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama for the best property of an eco-lodge development.  After considering dozens of properties in three countries, the Preserve property was selected as most ideal.

ITEC was founded in 1996 and held its first field ecology courses in Bocas in 1997.  ITEC is a tax-exempt organization in the U.S. and in Panama. ITEC has had a continued presence in Bocas for nearly 25 years.  ITEC has decided to permanently name the Preserve by its Facebook tag, “Ted Hannig’s Dolphin Bay Preserve,” in honor of their donor.  Ultimately ITEC envisions dozens of workers, researchers and volunteers conducting studies and projects at the Preserve.

Hannig said he selected the ITEC organization because it is significantly involved in four major activities that matter to him:  Education, Research, Conservation and Community Service.  

ITEC provides field courses in tropical ecology to college undergraduates and graduate students. The courses offered each year include coral reef ecology, primate ecology, rainforest and canopy ecology, Neotropical herpetology, tropical bird ecology, animal behavior and canopy access techniques, among others. ITEC’s educational reach is international, and it has received students from all over the world; 42 countries and counting. ITEC also hosts about 15 academic groups presenting their own field courses each year.  Most are university and college groups but ITEC also host high school groups and a grade-school group.  ITEC was impacted by the Covid pandemic, but remained operational.

ITEC also provides a venue for research. Most ITEC researchers, short and long-term, are graduate students working on Masters or Ph.D. projects, but ITEC also hosts university faculty, museum researchers and others.  ITEC provides lodging, meals, laboratory and library facilities and use of all boats and vehicles to aid in their research.  Some of the past projects included coral reef ecology, cultural anthropology, primate ecology, terrestrial invertebrates, botany, marine fishes, poison frogs and canopy ecology, to list a few.  Dr. Peter personally does research with poison frogs with respect to their homing ability, population dynamics, reproduction and polymorphism.  Ted Hannig’s Dolphin Bay Preserve has one of the largest concentrations of poison dart frogs and is unique in that it is where two different color morphs come together, a red one and a blue one. It is a zone of intergradation and one of few in the archipelago.  It is therefore an important and possibly unique frog study venue, and a reason the Preserve has been a frequent host to studies by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.

ITEC conservation activities are considerable.  In 1997 ITEC began ITEC sea turtle program on area beaches and hired Cristina Ordonez as the director.  ITEC and subsequently handed the program over to the Sea Turtle Conservancy.  ITEC has also been involved with two forest restoration projects.  To date, ITEC has planted over 5,000 trees representing 70+ species.   

Hannig is the son of a war pilot known for his heroics in World War II, who later became a successful business attorney and community leader; Hannig’s mother was a school teacher.  Both taught him the importance of volunteering and giving back. “I was raised on the idea we are in this world to try and leave it a little better than we found it.”  Hannig himself is a successful attorney and member of the United States Supreme Court Bar.  Hannig has served on well over a dozen non-profit boards and co-founded several charities. He currently serves as Chief Legal Officer and Senior Vice President, Black Mountain Properties, LLC, Managing Partner of Hannig Law LLP, and he is Chair and President of Danford Fisher Hannig Foundation and is a ten-year Director for the NoH8 campaign and a member of the Sequoia Hospital Foundation Board and its Community Advisory Board.

During the seisin transfer ceremony which followed ancient traditions of property transfer, a lump of soil with a twig from the property is given to the party in possession, Hannig became emotional.  “For over 15 years I have treated this property as my child, I have done my best to nurture it, protect it and prepare it for the future; but there comes a time as a parent when  you know it is your time to step back, and if you have done your job well, the future is something to behold and believe in, to be amazed by and not to fear.  That’s been the case with my daughter and now with this property.”  Hannig concluded, “With ITEC and particularly Dr. Pete at the helm, I believe today we are on verge of future generations of benefits that will come from today’s donation of this rare rain forest property and adjoining marine habitat into permanent observation and conservation.  This is one piece of paradise that will not get paved over.”  With that, possession of the Preserve was given to ITEC to a round of applause by those gathered.


The Bocas Breeze is a digital and print newspaper proudly serving the Bocas del Toro community since 2004; reporting news, advertising local businesses and promoting tourism in Bocas del Toro, Panama.

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