Panama

Protecting a “Sky Island” of Cloud Forest for Threatened Amphibians

Project Cost: $281,955

Funding Raised: $281,955

$1084 per acre (1 acre = 43,560 sq ft)

100% of your donation goes towards Conservation Action.

2X The Impact

Cerro Chucantí, an isolated massif or “sky island” in eastern Panama, rises from sea level to 4,721 feet in elevation and sustains a diverse cloud forest as well as other tropical forest ecosystems.

The closest peaks with similar elevation and vegetation are found at least 90 miles away; the geographic isolation of the Cerro Chucantí mountaintop has allowed its flora and fauna to differentiate considerably, such that it contains a number of locally endemic rainforest species found nowhere else on Earth. There have been many discoveries of species new to science at this irreplaceable site, including salamanders, frogs and snakes. Unfortunately, the rainforests in Cerro Chucantí are under significant threat from slash and burn activities, logging and cattle ranching.

Rainforest Trust will work together with our local partner ADOPTA to expand Cerro Chucantí Nature Reserve by 260 acres with a long-term aim of creating a broader government designated protected area. Through this project, three legally titled properties will be purchased to help establish an important buffer zone that will act as a barrier to prevent squatters from moving into extensive public wilderness areas, and will discourage poachers from hunting in the vicinity. The land to be purchased is part of the very limited high elevation cloud forest where many new species have been discovered. As a gateway to over 60,000 acres of public lands, Cerro Chucantí Nature Reserve is laying the foundation for the designation of a government National Park, an effort our partner ADOPTA is working hard to achieve.

Fast Facts

Location
Darien, eastern Panama

Size
260 acres

Key Species
Newly described amphibians that are likely to be listed as Critically Endangered, including Chucantí Salamander (Bolitoglossa chucantiensis) and Serrania de Maje Tink Frog (Diasporus majeensis); Great Green Macaw (EN), Baird’s Tapir (EN), Great Curassow (VU)

Habitat
Cloud forest

Threats
Deforestation, conversion to pasture land

Action
Land purchase to expand Cerro Chucantí Nature Reserve

Local Partner
Asociación Adopta el Bosque Panamá (ADOPTA)

Financial Need
$281,955

Price per Acre
$1,084

Biodiversity

Cerro Chucantí is home to many species new to science and there is a high potential for many more to be identified. In 2008, the dark brown Chucantí Salamander (Bolitoglossa chucantiensis) was discovered in this area, and a new frog species called the Serrania de Maje Tink Frog (Diasporus majeensis sp. nov.) was found in Cerro Chucantí as well.

The endemic Panamanian Climbing Rat, which was only known from two specimens collected in the 1950s, was recently rediscovered at Cerro Chucantí after decades without any recorded sightings. The area’s unique flora includes newly discovered species of calla lilies, and botanists are currently completing the description of a new heliconia plant species found only in Cerro Chucantí. There are still two species of snakes, at least three frogs, one salamander and over a dozen species of ants awaiting formal description. There is strong evidence to suggest that many of these species, which have only been recorded near Cerro Chucantí, are genuinely restricted to the area. Because of their limited range and the ongoing threats to their habitats, it is likely that these species will qualify as either Critically Endangered or Endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. Cerro Chucantí is also home to a number of species already recognized as being at high-risk for extinction, including Endangered species such as the Great Green Macaw and Baird’s Tapir, and Vulnerable species such as the Giant Anteater and Great Curassow. Iconic animals such as Mountain Lions and Harpy Eagles reside within Cerro Chucantí as well, and because the Critically Endangered Black-headed Spider Monkey was found here its documented range will officially be extended.

Challenges

During this year’s long dry season, forest destruction and conversion to pasture land has continued near the reserve.

Owners of key properties are already planning to clear existing cloud forest to expand their farming and cattle ranching operations. Purchasing this land will allow us to secure the forest and prevent any further clearing, especially as new colonists are encroaching on thousands of acres of unclaimed land.

Communities

Although no communities live within the boundaries of the proposed protected area, surrounding communities are supportive of the efforts to protect the mountain and watershed that provides important ecosystem services to them.

Community members are engaged in the conservation efforts through employment and outreach further supporting the importance of the reserve.

Solutions

Rainforest Trust will work together with our local partner ADOPTA with support from the International Conservation Fund of Canada (ICFC) to purchase 260 acres of strategic land parcels in this highly important area.

Once the land has been purchased, we will spearhead an effort to ensure the area is secure and any threats facing the forest are eliminated. Using forest guards and working in conjunction with the local government, patrols will ensure the forest remains intact and poaching is stopped. An important part of the long-term strategy is ensuring local community support, and ADOPTA’s mission includes educating, training and engaging the community in conservation activities.