La Amistad International Park

Year of compilation: 2003

Site description
Rising from near sea level to over 3,300 m, the enormous wilderness area of La Amistad International Park contains the highest number of endangered and endemic birds of any IBA in Panama. Extending from the Costa Rican border in the drainage of the Yorkin River, in Bocas del Toro the park includes the headwaters of the Changuinola River and its Teribe, Culubre and Changuena tributaries. On the Pacific slope in Chiriquí, the park boundary follows the 2,000 (above Santa Clara), 2,200 (above Cerro Punta) and 1,800 m contours (above Boquete). The lowest point in the park is at Boca Chica (90 m) in the Changuinola Valley, while Cerro Fabrega (3,335 m), the second highest peak in Panama after Volcán Barú, is the highest. Most people living inside the park belong to the Teribe and Ngöbe indigenous groups, but with some colonization by mestizos on the Chiriquí side. The only areas of the park easily visited are Los Nubes (park headquarters) and the Los Quetzales Cabins, both near Cerro Punta on the Chiriquí side. Access to the Caribbean slope is difficult, and most of its foothill and highland areas, including Cerro Fabrega, has never been ornithologically surveyed.

Key biodiversity
La Amistad is one of the most important strongholds for the globally threatened Bare-necked Umbrellabird and Three-wattled Bellbird. Other globally threatened and near-threatened species include Harpy and Crested Eagle, Black Guan, Great Curassow, Great Green Macaw, Red-fronted Parrotlet, Resplendent Quetzal and Blue-and-gold Tanager. An additional 76 nationally threatened species also occur. The park contains 47 of 54 species (87%) of the Costa Rica and Panama Highlands EBA, as well as 9 of 11 species (82%) of the Central American Caribbean Slope EBA. On the Chiriquí side, however, the boundary is too high to include any endemics of the Southern Central American Pacific Slope EBA. With 56 endemic species, La Amistad may have one of the highest totals of any area in the world. The site also includes 48 of 68 species (71%) of the N06 biome, and 17 of 42 species (40%) of the N05 biome.

Non-bird biodiversity: La Amistad is extremely rich in wildlife. Mammals found or expected in the park include Water Opossum, Slaty Mouse Opossum, Central American Wooly Opossum, Silky Anteater, Blackish Small-eared Shrew, Talamancan Small-eared Shrew, Ender's Small-eared Shrew, Honduran White Bat, Talamancan Yellow-shouldered Bat, Hairy-legged Vampire Bat, Thumbless Bat, Spix's Disc-winged Bat, Brazilian Free-tailed Bat, Central American Spider Monkey, Montane Squirrel, Chiriqui Pocket Gopher, Sprightly Pygmy Rice Rat, Underwood's Water Mouse, Chiriqui Singing Mouse, Chiriqui Harvest Mouse, Naked-footed Deer Mouse, Dice's Rabbit, Mexican Porcupine, Cacomistle, Olingo, Neotropical River Otter, Ocelot, Margay, Jaguarundi, Puma, Jaguar and Baird's Tapir. Reptiles and amphibians found or expected include the frogs and toads Atelopus chiriquiensis, A. varius, Bufo fastidiosus, B. peripatetes, Crepidophyrne epiotica, Dendrobates speciosus, Duellmanohyla lythrodes, Duellmanohyla uranochroa, Hyla debilis, H. graceae, H. lancasteri, H. pseudopuma, H. rivularis, H. tica, H. zeteki, Phyllomedusa lemur, Ptychohyla legleri, Eleutherodactylus emcelae, E. jota, E. melanostictus, E. noblei, E. pardalis, and Rana vibricaria; the salamanders Bolitoglossa compacta, B. marmorea, B. minutula, B. robusta, Oedipina alfaroi and O. grandis; the lizards Anadia ocellata, Anolis aquaticus, A. fungosus, A. kemptoni, A. microtus, A. pandoensis, A. vociferans, and A. woodi, and the snakes Hydromorphus dunni, Rhadinaea calligaster, R. godmani, R. pulveriventris, Urotheca decipiens, Atropoides nummifer, A. picadoi, and Cerrophidion godmani.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
There are six park guards assigned to the Chiriquí side of the park, and four to the Bocas del Toro side, very few considering the vast areas to be moni-tored. Due to its inaccessibility and low levels of staffing, effective control over hunting or forest clearing in most of the park is difficult. Particularly in vegetable-growing areas, pesticide use could affect birds and other wildlife. The recent completion of a road between Chiriquí Grande and Almirante may stimulate colonization that will sever the forest corridor between the highlands and the Caribbean coast through the Palo Seco Protection Forest, likely to affect seasonal migration between highlands and lowlands by such species as Three-wattled Bellbird and Bare-necked Umbrella-bird. Similarly, a proposed road through Volcán Barú National Park between Cerro Punta and Bo-quete would sever the connection between these two parks. The region has great hydroelectric potential and dams are planned for the Teribe and the lower Changuinola River.

Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
None currently known.

Protected areas
La Amistad International Park was established in 1988, and declared a World Heritage Site in 1990. On the Caribbean side, the Palo Seco Protection Forest forms a buffer zone between the park and the coast (except in the valley of the Yorkin River), and on the Pacific side La Amistad is contiguous with Volcán Barú National Park. Together with the Fortuna Forest Reserve, the adjacent protected areas total more than 365,000 ha. La Amistad is a bi-national park together with La Amistad International Park in Costa Rica (193,929 ha). With adjacent areas in Costa Rica (263,000 ha), this vast international protected complex thus covers more than 820,000 ha.

Habitat and land use
The park encompasses extremely wet evergreen lowland and submontane forest on the Caribbean slope, montane, high montane and cloud forest near the continental divide in both Bocas del Toro and Chiriquí, and, on Cerro Fabrega, the largest area of paramo in Panama (1,200 ha). There are some small areas of deforestation within the park (c. 6,000 ha, or 3 % of the park), primarily above Santa Clara, Cerro Punta and Boquete on the Chiriquí side, but also in some river valleys on the Bocas del Toro side. In Chiriquí, much of the area just below the park boundaries is devoted to intensive agriculture, including horticulture around Cerro Punta and coffee around Santa Clara and Boquete, as well as to cattle and subsistence agriculture. On the Caribbean side, adjacent land uses include subsistence agriculture and cattle on the Caribbean side.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Areas factsheet: La Amistad International Park. Downloaded from on 31/01/2023.