Volcán Barú National Park

Year of compilation: 2003

Site description
Volcán Barú (3,475 m), the highest peak in Panama, lies 7 km south of the continental divide on the Pacific slope. The lowest points are in the southeast corner (1,400 m) and just above the town of Volcán (1,480 m). A gravel road extends from the town of Boquete to a communications facility and antenna array on the summit. In addition to the summit road, the main access is via the Los Quetzales, or Respingo, Trail between Cerro Punta and Boquete. The area is inhabited by latinos and Ngöbe.

Key biodiversity
Volcán Barú lacks some of the montane species restricted to the wetter forests along the continental divide and on the Caribbean Slope. The globally threatened Red-fronted Parrotlet, Three-wattled Bellbird and Bare-necked Umbrellabird occur, as do the near-threatened Crested Eagle (extremely rare if still present), Black Guan and Resplendent Quetzal. The park contains 48 of 54 species (89%) of the Costa Rica-Panama Highlands EBA, and is the only known site in Panama for Timberline Wren, Sooty Thrush, and Volcano Junco (although species undoubtedly also occur on Cerro Fabrega in La Amistad International Park). It also contains 48 of 68 species (71%) of biome N06. Only one species of the Southern Central American Pacific Slope EBA, Fiery-billed Aracari, occurs, but it is rare here at the upper limits of its altitudinal range. Turquoise Cotinga has been recorded outside the park limits just west of the town of Volcán (Wetmore 1972), but there are no recent reports. The summit of the volcano is the only known site in Panama for Timberline Wren, Sooty Thrush and Volcano Junco. The only Panama record of Unspotted Saw-whet Owl is also from Volcán Barú (2,280 m). Sedge Wren has only been recorded in Panama from the upper slopes of Volcán Barú (2,700 m), around Boquete (600-1200 m), and Bugaba in the Chiriquí lowlands. The last record, however, was in 1905, and virtually all appropriate habitat around Bugaba and Boquete has been destroyed.

Non-bird biodiversity: Mammals found or expected in the park include Blackish Small-eared Shrew, Talamancan Small-eared Shrew, Talamancan Yellow-shouldered Bat, 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, Ocelot, Margay, Jaguarundi, Puma, and Jaguar. Endemic and endangered reptiles and amphibians found or expected include the frogs and toads Atelopus chiriquiensis, A. varius, B. peripatetes, Dendrobates speciosus, Hyla debilis, Hyla pseudopuma, H. rivularis, H. tica, H. zeteki, Phyllomedusa lemur, Ptychohyla legleri, Eleutherodactylus fleischmanni, E. melanostictus, E. monnichorum, E. noblei and Rana vibricaria, the salamanders Bolitoglossa marmorea and B. nigrescens; the lizards Mesaspis monticola, Anolis aquaticus, A. kemptoni, A. microtus, A. vociferans and A. woodi, and the snakes Geophis championi, Hydromorphus dunni, Rhadinaea calligaster, R. godmani, and Urotheca pachyura. The Talamanca endemic butterflies Lienix cinerascens,* L. viridifascia and Epiphile grandis have been collected (DeVries 1987).

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Pesticide use in nearby agricultural areas could have detrimental effects on wildlife. Timber-cutting and poaching are also problems within the park, and in the early 1990s wildfires caused significant damage. In 2002 the Panamanian government proposed to build a road through the park between the towns of Cerro Punta and Boquete would sever the connection between Volcán Barú and La Amistad International Park, with possible disruption of movements by wildlife. It also would have destroyed prime nesting habitat for Respelndent Quetzal. The road project was halted after a concerted campaign by local, national, and international conservation organizations. The park is a popular tourist destination and is easily visited from Volcán, Cerro Punta, or Boquete.

Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
None known.

Protected areas
Volcán Barú, Panama's second national park, was designated in 1976. There are four park guards assigned to the area. To the north the park is contiguous with La Amistad International Park.

Habitat and land use
The park includes barren lava fields (especially on the western slopes), montane, high montane and cloud forest, with paramo-like vegetation (560 ha) on lava floes near the peak. The mountain's forests are largely dominated by oak (Quercus). Approximately 3,400 ha (23%) of the park is deforested, primarily along the western side and in the east above Los Cabezos. Except on its northern side, the park is surrounded by agricultural land, primarily horticulture around Cerro Punta and coffee around Boquete.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Volcán Barú National Park. Downloaded from on 19/05/2021.