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La Amistad Biosphere Reserve, Panama

This biosphere reserve is situated in the northwest of Panama, bordering Costa Rica and the Caribbean Sea. It comprises a variety of different habitats, ranging from low humid mountain forest to mangrove forest and coral reefs.

Designation date: 2000


Regional network:  Red de Comités y Reservas de Biosfera de Iberoamérica y el Caribe (IberoMAB) 

Ecosystem-based network:




    Surface: 655,558 ha

    • Core area(s): 309,047 ha (marine: 19,438 ha)
    • Buffer zone(s): 256,713 ha (marine: 5,000 ha)
    • Transition zone(s): 92,798 ha (marine: 10,000 ha)

    Location: 09°05'N; 82°40'W

    Administrative Authorities

    Joselin Mosaquites
    Gestor de la Reserva de la Biosfera La Amistad 
    507-500 -0855, Ciudad de Panamá
    Edificio 804, Albrook.  Apartado C-Zona 0843, Balboa, Ancón

    Tel.: (5) 6980-8846


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    Ecological Characteristics

    The Biosphere Reserve is home to a megadiverse area, particularly in the protected areas, such as the International Park La Amistad and Bosque Protector Palo Seco.

    In the highlands of the Biosphere Reserve, some important lagoons, have international recognition under the Ramsar Convention as habitats for migratory bird species. It’s also an endemic area of mammals, reptiles amphibious and fish. The unique volcano of Panama, Baru, is also situated in the area. In the low lands a variety of representative species of the Atlantic Panamanian mangrove associations are found, such as ‘orey’, ‘rafia’, and ‘cativo’, ‘sangrillo’ y ‘cerillo’ in the San-San Pond Sak wetland.

    The region is home to 84 mammal species, like the giant anteater (Tapirus bairdii) and the jaguar (Panthera onca), as well as 285 bird species, like the Tawny-winged woodcreeper (Dendrocincla anabatina).


    Socio-Economic Characteristics

    Most of the population live from agriculture, cattle raising, forestry, fisheries and ecotourism. Some indigenous ethnic groups as Ngóbe, Teribe, Buglé and Bribri live in the buffer area. They have conserved their language, cultures, traditions and religions. They also practice traditional forms of agriculture and subsistence hunting. La Amistad offers a considerable opportunity to promote sustainable development by using local resources: fish, flora, fauna, soil, water and landscape beauty.

    The high degree of under and non-employment, of critical poverty, the high percentage of illiteracy, infantile mortality and under-nourishment as well as the poor road system in the whole area underline the clear need to adopt development strategies to improve living conditions for the local people. This site forms part of La Amistad International Park with Costa Rica. In the past decade, the region has received massive investments, with 3 hydroelectric projects.


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    Last updated: June 2019