La Moskitia

La Moskitia

The second largest forest in Mesoamerica

La Moskitia is the forest shared between Nicaragua and Honduras, covers around 22,568 km2. The binational “Heart of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor” of Nicaragua and Honduras is the second-largest wilderness in Central America. 

This remote area of mountains and plains, known as Moskitia, harbors natural forests, high biological diversity, and protects wildlife extirpated or at risk in smaller forest patches, including jaguar (Panthera onca), giant anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla), harpy eagle, (Harpia harpyja), scarlet macaw (Ara macao), white-lipped peccary (Tayassu pecari), and migratory birds. It also hosts over 100,000 inhabitants, including Miskito, Mayangna, Garifuna, Pech, and Tawakha indigenous groups. 

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

Over the past decade, this complex of protected areas and indigenous territories has experienced increasingly rapid forest loss and degradation due to complex deep-rooted governance challenges and threats such as illegal land grabbing and illegal land sales, extensive cattle ranching, narco-trafficking, money laundering, looting of archaeological sites, traffic of flora and fauna, and mechanized gold mining. Due to these threats, UNESCO has listed Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve of Honduras as a World Heritage Site in Danger.

Flora & fauna

According to the official list of native species of Honduras, more than 300 endemic species of flora and fauna have been registered in this area. It is home to felines such as the ocelot (Leopardus padalis), birds such as the Guara Verde (Ara ambiguus), reptiles such as the alligator tortoise (Chelydra serpentina) and pine (Pinus caribaea), and mahogany trees (Swietenia macrophylla).

This territory is home to the Coco or Segovia, Patuca and Plátano Rivers, three of the most important rivers in the country. In fact, the network of rivers and lagoon systems of La Moskitia constitute the largest freshwater reserve in Honduras.

The largest continuous extension of protected areas in Honduras is in La Moskitia, made up of the Río Plátano Man and Biosphere Reserve Wetland System (SHRHBRP), declared a World Heritage Site, the Tawahka Asangni Biosphere Reserve (BTA) and the Patuca National Park (PNP).

This region is also home to 20 out of the 21 families of aquatic birds reported for Honduras. It protects the Green guara (Ara ambiuus) and the harpy eagle (Harpia harpyja), in danger of extinction, and the green ibis (Mesembrinibis cayennensis), the parasitic gull (Lestris parasiticus), the rufus tiger heron (Tigrisoma lineatum), and the avocet, all endemic birds.

In addition, it is a refuge for the American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus), the alligator, and the alligator turtle (Macrochelys temminckii), part of the threatened or endangered reptiles, according to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Its extensive masses of forests make La Moskitia the most significant remaining forest in Honduras. The mangrove forest is the dominant coastal ecosystem, extending more than 23 thousand hectares. It constitutes a vital ecosystem for the communities of the Karataska Lagoon System, since it serves as a nursery for a good part of the commercial species on which the local fisheries depend.

Indigenous and local communities

La Moskitia in Honduras and Nicaragua is a region of great ethnic and cultural diversity and a significant presence of indigenous peoples, territories, and communities. Indigenous women now play heightened roles in preserving cultural, linguistic, and social identities in the miskito communities.

In the extensive territory of the Moskitia, there are six indigenous peoples: Pech, Tawahka, Nahua, Tolupán, Miskito and Garífuna, the first four in the area of the Río Plátano Reserve and its periphery, the Garífunas in the coastal areas and the Miskito in the extensive plains that extend to the border with Nicaragua.

According to the 2013 population census, in Honduras, 705,281 people recognized themselves as belonging to the eight recognized indigenous peoples in the country. This is 8.5 percent of the total population. The Lenca, Miskito and Garífuna people are the majority. In Nicaragua, eight indigenous peoples have a population of 230,333 and the majority belong to the Chorotega, Nagua or Mange peoples.