La Amistad

La Amistad

La Amistad is found in Panama and Costa Rica, and covers around 14,991 km2, being the 4th largest wilderness in Central America. La Amistad is one of Central America’s best examples of transboundary conservation, incorporating strict protection and multiple-use forest management by indigenous communities.

La Amistad International Park is considered the largest and most biologically diverse protected wild area in Costa Rica, due to its wide altitudinal range, strong climatic changes, and variety of soils, which promote diverse ecosystems and high endemism. It is recognized as international since its extension covers part of Costa Rica such as Panama, and protection has been a joint effort by both countries.

It is famous for its biodiversity and presents animal species that can only be found in this area. For this reason, UNESCO named La Amistad International Park as a World Heritage Site in 1983 for its astonishing diversity of plant and animal life.

Costa Rica acts as part of the biological bridge and filter between South America and North America, which adds great value to this park endowed with great biodiversity.

Location map "La Amistad" by Marco Martínez (WCS)

Flora & fauna

The mixed forests or cloud forests, high and very humid cover most of its territory, and include extensive oak forests. In this park, we find an extraordinary number of habitats, a product of the differences in height, soil, climates, and terrains, such as moors, swamps, oak groves, madrones, ferns, and mixed forests. 

More than 263 species of amphibians and reptiles have been observed, the most common being the lizard, the salamander, and the anurans. Among the mammals, we find the tapir (Tapirus bairdii), the puma (Puma concolor), the jaguar (Panthera onca), the cappuccino monkey, the ocelot (Leopardus pardalis), the cacomixtle (Bassariscus astutus), and the tayra or tolomuco (Eira barbara).

The bird fauna is represented by 400 species, among which the quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno), the crested eagle (Morphnus guianensis), the black guan (Chamaepetes unicolor), the black-faced woodpecker (Melanerpes pucherani), and the harpy eagle (Harpia harpyja) stand out.

This forest protects the middle and upper basins of the Ceibo, Cabagra, Mosca, Guinea, Singri, and Canasta rivers whose main collector is the Río Grande de Térraba on the Pacific slope. On the Atlantic slope, the Banano, Telire, Coen, Lari, and Urén rivers stand out, whose main collector is the Sixaola River. The capacity of these basins to provide drinking water to the surrounding populations is undeniable, especially considering that the population is increasing rapidly. Likewise, it must be considered that the orographic system favors the incursion of humidity from the oceans, which leads to very constant and torrential rains, thereby increasing the risk of landslides and floods. Hence the great value for the international protection of this forest.

Its surface includes very humid, rainy, and cloudy forests, as well as regions crowned by peaks and rocky massifs where cold swamps are found.

Indigenous and local communities

In its entirety, this territory is part of the ancestral lands of the Bribri, Cabécar, Naso, Ngäbe, and Buglé peoples.

Most of the surface of this region, inhabited by four different indigenous communities, is covered by tropical rainforests. It is surrounded by the Chirripó, Tay​​ní, Telire, and Talamanca indigenous territories of the Atlantic slope and by the Ujarrás, Salitre, and Cabagra indigenous territories of the Pacific slope of the Talamanca mountain range.

Indigenous people from four different peoples, Afro-descendants, Latinos, mestizos, and extra continental immigrants coexist in this forest. Some in cities, others in small population centers, others scattered in the forest or in agricultural areas.