The Chiriquí site stretches along almost half of the southwestern coast of Panama. Of all the mangroves found on the Pacific Coast of Central America, the mangrove forests which fringe this coast are considered the most healthy and diverse as well as the most critically threatened.
The core zone of this landscape is Coiba National Park which includes Coiba Island, the largest island in the Central America's Pacific Ocean and one of the largest marine parks in the world.
The island is mainly forested and is home to at least 12 endemic species of birds and mammals and is a refuge for the scarlet macaw. The excellent conservation status of the island is mainly due to a penal colony established there in 1919. However, the colony is now closed and the future protected status of Coiba is unclear.
The Chiriquí-Azuero region is located on the Pacific coast of Panama in the West, and stretches from close to the Costa Rican border in the province of Chiriqui to the Azuero Peninsula. Coiba Island lies just off the southwestern coast of Panama. This area includes four coastal marine parks, the National Wildlife Reserve - La Barqueta Beach of 14,600 acres, Gulf of Chiriqui National Marine Park 36,400 acres, the Gulf of Montijo and the 667,000 acre Coiba Island National Park - only 20% of which is terrestrial.
Due to its irregular topography Chiriqui has the greatest floral diversity in all of Panama with 4,388 plants.
Why the Conservancy Works Here
The mangrove forests on this site are considered the most diverse on the Pacific Coast of Central America. These mangroves of approximately 64,200 acres and the adjacent Pacific dry forest are the home to several endangered species, including a significant population of the globally threatened yellow-billed cotinga, the critically endangered squirrel monkey whose range is restricted to this part of Panama and a small patch in Costa Rica, and other important species.
Major threats to this area include the coastal area's conversion to agricultural and cattle ranching activities, and mangrove extraction for poles (house construction), charcoal production, and tannery use. Coastal development and the over exploitation of marine resources are also endangering these habitats.
On the islands and in the marine areas, sedimentation, water pollution from urban areas, agrochemical pollution, planting of exotic trees and over fishing are the critical threats.
What the Conservancy Is Doing
The Conservancy is working with potential partners to design and implement strategies to abate these threats and improve biodiversity in Chiriqui. A first step, was mapping the entire coral reef system in the gulf with the help of Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and Avina. The Conservancy is also creating a plan to protect the endangered humpback and blue whales that come here to breed and calve.
The Conservancy and its partners will also promote the management of Coiba National Park under a co-management plan and design and create an endowment fund that will bring long-term financial resources to implement conservation action.