THE FRIENDSHIP INTERNATIONAL PARK
(Parque Internacional La Amistad)




CREATION DATE: September 6, 1988.

The Costa Rican sector was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1983, and the Panamanian site in 1990. This transboundary World Heritage Site is referred to as Talamanca Range-La Amistad/La Amistad National Park.

SURFACE: 207,000 square kilometers (420,000 acres), with Bocas del Toro.

Contiguous to two Panamanian protected areas: Volcan Baru National Park (14,000 ha) in the south, and Palo Seco Forest Reserve (244,000 ha) in the east; and two Costa Rican protected areas: La Amistad (Talamanca) National Park (193,929 ha), and Las Tablas Protected Area (19,062 ha) in the west.



This park is considered as the first Bi·National Biosphere Reserve of the world because it is located between Panama and Costa Rica.

The Panamanian side of the park is part of the mountain range called 'Cordillera de Talamanca'. It covers 207,000 hectares (511,000 acres) of cloud forests and 95 % of it is located in the province of Bocas del Toro with the rest in the province of Chiriqui.

LAND TENURE

94% of the area is state owned. The remaining 6% belongs to farming estates in Rios Caldera and Chiriqui Viejo.

ALTITUDE

90 m to 3,474 m (297 f to 11,464 f).

PHYSICAL FEATURES

The landscape represents a sector of the Cordillera de Talamanca mountain range, a rugged topography with many slopes inclined at more than sixty degrees. The whole area was uplifted to some 4,000m above sea level in the Plio-Quaternary orogenesis. The Cordillera de Talamanca is essentially of granite, metamorphic and volcanic origin, representing the Changuinola formation, the oldest in Panama.

The Teribe and Changuinola rivers are the main waterways of this park and both are considered to have a high potential for hydroelectric development. The Uren, Katsi and Scui Rivers are all tributaries of the Sixaola.

CLIMATE

Tropical humid with average temperatures ranging from above 23 grades C near sea level to 0 grades C on the highest peaks. Mean annual precipitation varies from around 2500mm to more than 5000mm in some high montane areas.

CONSERVATION VALUE

The area includes the largest remaining tract of natural forest in Panama and, together with the Costa Rican portion, comprises the single largest natural forest unit in Central America.

In terms of biodiversity, the area contains 180 endemic plant species and is one of the last major refuges for threatened fauna such as ocelot, jaguar and tapir.

The avifauna is particularly rich with some 600 species. No other protected area complex in Central America contains as many viable populations, species, or life zones.

The Talamanca range is estimated to harbour about 4% of all terrestrial species on earth

FAUNA

The fauna is extremely diverse, with intermigrations from both North and South America. One of the 115 fish species, 20 of the 250 herpetofauna species, 13 of the 215 mammalian species and 15-30 of the 600 species of birds are endemic to the region of Cordillera de Talamanca.

The area is one of the last refuges in western Panama of all Central American felines including puma Felis concolor, ocelot F. pardalis, jaguarundi F. yagouaroundi, tiger cat F. tigrina, jaguar Panthera onca as well as tapir Tapirus bairdii.

Of the 850 species of bird reported in Panama, approximately 550-600 exist in the region of La Amistad, out of which a total 425 species live up to 900m asl.

In the higher altitudes it is estimated that there are 40 endemic species of bird, making this area one of the regions with the highest frequencies of endemism in Central America.

Of the amphibians, six species have a distribution restricted to the Cordillera de Talamanca as represented by Dendrobates speciosus, and Anolis kemtoni which is endemic to the country (Patino, 1989).

VEGETATION

The area is one of the most ecologically diverse in the whole of Panama and Central-America. Tropical rain forests have covered most of the area since at least the last glaciation, about 25,000 years ago, in an assemblage ranging from lowland tropical rain forest to cloud and sub-alpine paramo forests.

At least nine Holdridge life zones of Panama occur in the park, including four found only on Caribbean facing slopes (bosque humedo tropical, bosque muy humedo tropical, bosque muy humedo premontano and bosque pluvial premontano) and three on the Pacific-facing slopes (bosque humedo montano bajo, bosque muy humedo montano bajo and bosque muy humedo montano) and two zones representative of high altitudes in the Cerro Fabrega (paramo pluvial sub-alpino). Bosque humedo montano bajo exists almost exclusively in Panama.

Most of the main crest lies within the montane rain forest life zone, characterised by mixed oak forest; a dense, low and heavily-covered forest with bryophytes, ferns, bromeliads, orchids and other epiphytes.

Below 2,500m, lower montane rain forest occurs and the forest is generally more mixed. The Talamanca Mountains contain the largest tracts of virgin forest in Panama.

Characteristic vegetation of the Cordillera de Talamanca mixed forests found above 1,000m, includes Podocarpus oleifolius, Symphonia poasoana, the locally threatened Terminalia amazonia, Cedrela tonduzii (I), Ulmus mexicana, Ardisia sp., Clethra lanata, Clusia sp., Persea sp. and Ocotea sp. (Patino, 1989).

The whole area contains a diversity of plant genera, families or species perhaps unequalled in any other reserve of equivalent size in the world, due to the convergence of the floras of North and South America, the varied climatic, altitudinal and edaphic factors.

The area is also noted for 180 recorded endemic plants species which are either restricted to Bocas del Toro and Chiriqui provinces or to Panama as a whole.

CULTURAL HERITAGE

The Teribes during the 16th and 17th centuries dispersed to the regions of Talamanca and the Isla Tojar or Colon, where they made contact with other groups such as the Doraques, Changuenas, Borucas, Bribi and the Cabecar. The Isla Tojar was the haunt of the Changuenas, Torresques and Seguas.

The arrival of the Spanish in the 17th century was followed by a series of persecutions, rebellions and evangelising by missionaries which led to a drastic decline in the native populations. In 1709, the Indians reacted against the missionaries, soldiers and civilians. The 19th century brought suffering for the Teribes tribes, a period of constant wars "Tal es el caso de las largas guerras entre ellos y los Bribris" (Patino, 1989).

HOW TO GET THERE

From Panama City, you can fly (1 hour) or by land (6 hours) to David in the province of Chiriqui. Once you are there, you take a ride to Cerro Punta that is 1 hour from David. Then from Cerro Punta to the Administration Center of the park (Las Nubes) is another 5 kilometers by car.

For the Bocas del Toro side of the park you could take a plane from Panama City (1 hour) or from David (20 minutes) to Changuinola, then there is a 15 minutes trip by car to El Silencio. From this town to the Administration Center of the park in Bocas del Toro (Panajungla) you will need to take a 35-minute trip by boat.

SERVICES

Near this park you can find three towns that can provide you with hotels, banks, health centers, transportation and guides to the different attractions of the park. These towns are Cerro Punta and Volcan in Chiriqui; and Changuinola in Bocas del Toro. A little far there is David, capital of the Chiriqui province.

WHAT TO DO AND WHERE TO GO?

When you visit this park you must be prepared for river adventures and mountain hikes though dense humid forests.

In Bocas del Toro, you will find Panajungla (this was a jungle training center for military forces) were you can do bird watching and have a closer look at the way of life of some Indian Villages around the area, like the Teribes with their Royal Palace and their handicrafts. You can also enjoy rafting and fishing in the river Teribe.

In the Chiriqui sector you can have wonderful hikes on short distance trails such as the Cascada and the Retoño, with a nice climate while doing bird watching such as the Quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno) an exuberantly beautiful bird with its red and green feathers and discovering the beauty of the green landscape, the flora and fauna.

As this area is located 2000 meters (6,000 ft.) above sea level, you must be prepared for the altitude.