The Mamoní Valley protects one of Panama’s most important ecological assets, the continuity of the flow of biodiversity through the Americas via the Darien Gap. Bordering the Chagres National Park and Guna Yala Indigenous Comarca, the Valley helps to protect one of the most important upland watersheds along the narrowest portion of the Panamanian Isthmus. As part of the Mesoamerican Biodiversity Corridor (MBC), the Valley’s privileged location and reserves of over 1500 hectares of late successional forest make it a critical link in the heterogeneous chain of parks, preserves, indigenous lands and other publicly and privately held territories that make up the MBC. There are several large blocks of forest that act as an archipelago of suitable habitat for many of the Valley’s forest dwellers. The Valley hosts documented jaguar, ocelot, tapir and several primate species, with the Mamoní Valley Preserve properties providing core habitat for many threatened or endangered species.
The large reserves of lands afford multiple stages of forest succession, elevations, microclimates and forest land cover. According to Panamanian official maps, the lands of the Mamoní Valley are classified as evergreen ombrophilous (broad-leaved) lowland forest, partially-deciduous ombrophilous (broad-leaved) forest, and montane “cloud forests”, with large blocks of mature forest found in less accessible higher elevations.
The secondary forest in the Valley ranges in age, but most secondary forest is in the 15-30 year old range. The Mamoní Valley’s unique microclimate has allowed many pre-montane species to colonize at elevations lower than the plants’ typical altitude ranges. Moisture coming up and over the Continental Divide from the Caribbean keeps humidity high and cloud cover near constant, allowing arborescent ferns, epiphytes and some tree species in different suites of species than one would typically find at that elevation.
The Mamoní Valley Preserve has nearly the full assortment of Panama’s humid forest ecosystem fauna, with impressive birdlife one of the main tourist draws. Though rarely seen, the Valley boasts a full suite of mammalian fauna, including most of the wild cats, as well as the monkeys, sloths and four legged herbivores that they prey on. The reserve has a large suite of Panama’s reptile species, with abundant snakes and lizards throughout. The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute’s Amphibian Recovery Unit works in the Valley, and many consider the Valley an oasis for amphibians. Remnant populations of many frog species (including the threatened Atelopus limosus) heavily impacted by the deadly Chytrid fungus have thus far been spared. Large scale, ongoing biological assays have been conducted in the Valley.
The large uninterrupted blocks of late successional and secondary forest offer prime habitat for many larger mammals, many of them threatened and/or endangered due to habitat loss and hunting.
The lists below highlight some of the species found in the Valley.
Mammals: The high quality habitat of the Mamoní Valley Preserve is a haven for a diverse array of mammals, including almost all major cats, and Panama’s full suite of herbivores and arboreal mammals.
- Felids: Jaguars (Pantera onca), Puma (Felis concolor), ocelots (Leopardus pardalis), margays (Leopardus weidii), Jaguarondi (Puma yagouarundi)
- Canids: Coyote (Canis latrans), Fox (Canis vulpes)
- Anteaters: Giant anteater (Myrmecophaga sp.) and Tamanduas (Tamandua sp.)
- Herbivores and foragers: Tapir (Tapirus bairdii), deer (Odeliocolus sp.), Agoutis (Dasyprocta sp., Myoproctasp. and Cuniculus sp.), rabbits, and squirrels.
- Monkeys: Spider (Ateles sp.), Howler (Aluoatta sp.), Capuchin (Cebus sp.), and Titi (Callicebus sp.).
- Sloths: Two-toed (Choleupus sp.) and Three-toed (Bradypus sp.)
- Bats: Fruit-eating and insectivorous speciesBirds: Panama is a major Migratory Flyway – with hundreds of transitory songbirds and waterfowl.
Birds: Panama is a major Migratory Flyway – with hundreds of transitory songbirds and waterfowl.
- Raptors: Harpy Eagle (Aguila harpia –transitory), Large Hawks (Buteo sp.), Small Hawks (Accipiter sp.), Forest Falcons (sp.), Kites (Buteo sp.), Owls
- Parrot-family: Macaws (Ara sp.-transitory), Amazons (Amazona sp.), Parakeets (Fam. Psittacidae)
- Toucans (Rhamphustus sp.) and Trogons (Fam. Trogonidae)
- Hummingbirds (Fam. Trochilidae)
- Kingfishers (Fam. Cerylidae)
Reptiles and Amphibians: The Mamoní Valley Preserve has abundant herpetofauna given the high humidity and ample habitat.
- Snakes: 30+ species of venomous and non-venomous snakes have been recorded including Pit Vipers (Bothrops sp.), Bushmasters (Lachesis sp.) and Coral snakes (Fam. Elapidae)
- Lizards: Green iguana (Iguana iguana), Basilisk (Basliscus basiliscus), et.al.
- Frogs: Poison dart frogs (Dendrobates sp.), Tree frogs, et al.
Fish: Sabalo, bocachica and many small fish can be found in the Rio Mamoní and tributaries.