All CEP Technical Reports
CEP Technical Report No. 36 1996: Status of Protected
Area Systems in the Wider Caribbean Region
Area 75,517 sq. km.
Protected Areas (PAs)
|PAs with Marine or Coastal Zones||Extension|
|World Heritage Sites||2||1||786,000|
(1) Totals have been adjusted to avoid double counting areas that are classified in 2 or more categories.
Policy and Legislation
There is no national conservation policy that has been officially adopted in Panama to date. However, the National Plan for Environmental Protection and Rehabilitation 1989-2000 (Plan Nacional para Protección y Rehabilitación Ambiental) includes measures to integrate environmental issues into national development (Illueca 1988). The Forestry Action Plan for Panama (Plan de Acción Forestal de Panamá) was developed in 1990 and is an integral component of the National Plan for Environmental Protection and Rehabilitation 1989-2000 (Illueca 1988).
Objectives of the action plan include revising current environmental legislation; co-ordinating the activities of all organisations involved in forest resource protection; and promoting training programmes for the forest service to increase the effectiveness of protection. Several projects are proposed, including recommendations to reinforce forest and protected area management.
The General Forestry Law No. 39, 1966 establishes all forest land as the property of the state, and declares the conservation, improvement and rational use of forest resources to be in the national interest. Three classes of forest reserves are identified: production forest (bosque de producción), protection forest (bosque de protección) and special forest (bosque especial). The latter category includes national parks, reserves and other protected area, as the definition provides for the declaration of special forest reserves for scientific, educational, historic, tourism, recreational or other reasons (Annex I). Private land may be expropriated for protected areas.
National parks, reserves and other categories of protected area are declared and modified by means of separate legal instruments which establish management objectives for the area and provide general regulations governing its use. Most protected areas have been created by executive decree, although a few were created by congressional law and two wildlife refuges were created by municipal ordinances. All but two areas, El Copé National Park and Chepigana Forest Reserve, have clear limits defined in the legislation providing for their creation.
Law No. 12, 1973 created the first institute specifically responsible for natural resources in Panama, the National Directorate of Renewable Natural Resources (Dirección Nacional de Recursos Naturales Renovables, RENARE), and established its general functions regarding wildlands conservation. Law No. 21, 1986 converted RENARE into the current National Institute of Natural Renewable Resources (Instituto Nacional de Recursos Naturales Renovables, INRENARE).
At present, protected areas collectively comprise the System of National Parks and other Protected Wildlands (Sistema de Parques Nacionales y otras Areas Silvestres Protegidas, SPNASP), but there is no law which unifies them as such (INRENARE 1990a). INRENARE has been drafting comprehensive protected areas legislation which would standardise the management of all protected areas as part of an integrated system.
Conventions & Treaties
Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD, 1992)
Convention for the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment of the Wider Caribbean Region (Cartagena Convention, 1983)
Central American Biodiversity Convention (CABD, 1992)
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES, 1973)
United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (LOS, 1982)
Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (Migratory Species, 1972)
Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat (Ramsar, 1971)
Convention on Nature Protection and Wildlife Preservation in the Western Hemisphere (Western Hemisphere Convention, 1940)
Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (World Heritage, 1972)
Programmes & Associations
Centro Agronomico Tropical de Investigacion y Ensenanza (CATIE, 1972)
Caribbean Environment Programme (CEP, 1981) and its Specially Protected Areas & Wildlife Programme (SPAW, 1990)
Latin American Network for Technical Co-operation in National Parks, Protected Areas & Wildlife (LAN-NPPAW)
UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB, 1972)
FAO Tropical Forestry Action Plan (TFAP, 1985)
The first governmental national parks department was established in 1968, primarily to administer Altos de Campana National Park. Under current legislation, all natural resources are the responsibility of INRENARE, whose objectives include formulating and implementing national environmental and forestry policies.
Administrative responsibilities are divided between the respective directorates within INRENARE. Forest resources, particularly extractive and commercial activities, are managed by the National Directorate for Forest Development (Dirección Nacional de Desarrollo Forestal) which replaces the former Forestry Service. National parks, other protected areas and wildlife resources are managed by the National Directorate of Protected Areas and Wildlife (Dirección Nacional de Areas Protegidas y Vida Silvestre). Despite this broad mandate, the institution has a relatively small staff, including guards in the field who undergo a two-month training course but generally lack equipment, transport and funding (Candanedo and Barborak 1992).
Based on their management objectives and legal framework, several protected areas are managed with the collaboration of other organisations. This occurs in the case of Portobelo National Park, in collaboration with the Panamanian Institute of Tourism (Instituto Panameño de Turismo, IPAT), and Barro Colorado National Monument in collaboration with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. The Water and Electricity Institute (Instituto de Recursos Hidrológicos y Electrificación, IRHE) provides support for management of La Fortuna Reserve. Barro Colorado has been the site of continuous and intensive ecological research since the early 1900's (Leigh et al 1983), and is one of the best studied natural areas in the tropics.
The National Indigenous Institute for Social Anthropology (Instituto Indígena Nacional de Antropología Social), created in 1958, divided indigenous territories for administrative purposes into areas known as comarcas. The Kuna and Embera peoples have authority for managing their own largely forested comarcas, or indigenous reserves, in co-ordination with government authorities. However, these two are the only comarcas that have been established legally, and many are without defined limits (Candanedo and Barborak 1992).
The Kuna have a well-trained team of wildland rangers and professionals and have benefited from considerable international technical and financial assistance (Archibold 1990, 1991, Houseal and Archibold 1988). In 1983 the Study Project for the Management of Kuna Wildlands (Proyecto de Estudio para el Manejo de Areas Silvestres de Kuna Yala, PEMASKY) was established to support the Kuna in managing their reserve. The communities of San Blas Comarca have designated 60,000 ha of their 320,000 ha indigenous reserve as a specially protected area, and are also proposed the whole area as a biosphere reserve.
Several national non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are quite active in supporting protection and management of protected wildlands. These include the National Association for the Conservation of Nature (Asociación Nacional para la Conservación de la Naturaleza, ANCON), which helps to raise funds for park and buffer zone management, and is home to the national conservation data centre (CDC), and the National Parks and Environment Foundation (Fundación PA.NA.M.A.), an umbrella organisation formed by 24 NGOs whose aim is to assist in the development of a protected area system.
The highest priority of government and NGO agencies involved in protected areas is to improve the management and protection of existing parks and reserves. However, some additional protected areas have been proposed. These include an indigenous territory for the Guaymi Indians in western Panama, several island parks and reserves (Las Perlas, Isla Coiba), and a reserve in the Serranía de Maje mountains of eastern Panama. Another priority is to establish definite boundaries for El Copé National Park, the limits of which are defined in the decree creating this potentially large area.
Owing to its tropical setting, location on the Central American land bridge, and altitudinal and climatic variability, Panama has very high biological diversity for its size. Some 218 species of mammals, 929 of birds, 226 of reptiles, and 170 of amphibians are found in the country. It also has diverse coastal and marine ecosystems, including the largest mangrove estuaries in Central America along the Pacific coast, and important reef complexes along the Caribbean coast. It is home to an estimated 8,000-9,000 vascular plants, including 1,226 endemic taxa (Davis et al 1986). Endemism is highest in the highlands along the Costa Rican and Colombian borders; for this same reason, most endemic species are shared with these neighbours.
Topographically, Panama comprises four regions: western Panama, dominated by the Cordillera de Talamanca extending down from Costa Rica in a south-easterly direction; central lowlands bisected by the Canal; the eastern region characterised by a series of coastal ranges; and the narrow Caribbean lowlands on the Caribbean coast (Hartshorn 1981).
Following the Holdridge (1967) ecological classification system, 12 life zones are found in Panama. More than 75% of the country is located in just three zones: tropical moist, including extensive areas of tropical moist forest along the Caribbean coast and in the eastern Darién region; premontane wet; and rain forest (Hartshorn 1981). Other important forest types include tropical dry forest along the Pacific coast, small areas of montane wet forest and subalpine páramo along the higher ridges near the Costa Rican border, and lower montane wet forests in much of the western highlands.
With a population density of 31.2 persons per sq. km., and a growth rate of just 2.1% annually, Panama is less densely populated and has a lower population growth rate than neighbouring countries. However, destructive land-use practices, particularly extensive grazing on marginal lands, have led to large losses of forest cover (Heckadon and McKay 1982), amounting to approximately 1% of remaining forest cover annually. Natural forests now cover around 3.2 million ha or under half of the total national territory, of which 1.2 million ha are production forest and 2 million ha protection and conservation forest, including national parks and reserves (INRENARE 1990b). The three categories of forest reserves (Annex I) are collectively managed as the National Forest Management System (Sistema de Manejo de Bosques Nacionales, INRENARE 1990a, 1990b).
Over 3 million ha are included in Panama's protected areas system, equivalent to nearly 40% of the country's landmass. Fourteen of the 34 areas contain marine or coastal resources, including three Ramsar Sites (Golfo de Montijo, San San & Pond Sak, and the Reserva Natural Punta Patiño). Nearly 50% of the total extension is included in National Parks and Biological Reserves, while most of the remaining area is in Forest Reserves or Indian Reservation.
Barro Colorado Island has functioned as a biological reserve since 1923 and is thus the oldest continuously managed and protected wildland in the Central American region. Efforts to plan and create a national protected areas system date back to the 1960's. By the late 1970's, substantive plans and proposals were made for priority parks and reserves and the protected areas system with the assistance of World Conservation Union (IUCN), FAO, and the Tropical Agronomic Centre for Research and Training (CATIE) (IUCN 1976, IUCN 1982, Dalfelt and Morales 1978). Over half the protected areas have been established since the beginning of the 1980's, and most have at least annual operational plans. A national protected areas system plan was produced in the mid-1980's with assistance from USAID (Houseal 1985).
Major threats confront most protected areas, including insufficient budgets and personnel; illegal activities such as poaching, illegal timber harvest, and fire in drier areas; shipment of narcotics; looting of archaeological sites; and encroachment by landless farmers. Exploration for oil has taken place in a number of areas and poses a threat to certain protected areas. A large oil exploration project planned by Texaco for the Bocas del Toro region was recently cancelled, but the possibility of activities being transferred to the Darién region remains (Santos 1991).
Protected areas in general are insufficiently used for educational programmes and research, and the potential economic benefits of ecotourism for the national economy and local communities around parks has yet to be realised. To provide a firm long-term financial basis for protecting and managing the nation's protected areas, an international debt swap was under negotiation with USAID and The Nature Conservancy to help set up a permanent endowment fund to be managed by Fundación Natura, established for that specific purpose.
Tourism in protected areas is still quite limited, as are park visitor facilities, even though some protected areas near Panama City, such as Altos de Campana National Park, Soberanía National Park, and Barro Colorado Island National Monument, are very accessible. However, as part of the general boom in nature based tourism occurring throughout the Central American region, visitation is expected to increase substantially in the near future. As part of a new USAID funded national conservation project, major investments in basic infrastructure are planned for the protected areas system over the next decade (Candanedo and Barborak 1992).
In 1982 Panama signed the Basic Convention for Creation of the Park (Convenio Básico de Creación del Parque), a bi-national agreement with Costa Rica for the creation, joint planning and administration of the trans-boundary park La Amistad. Assistance for this project comes from the Organisation of American States (OAS) and Conservation International (CI).
Instituto Nacional de Recursos Naturales Renovables (INRENARE), Apartado 2016, Paraíso, ANCON (Tel: 507 32 4518; FAX: 507 32 4975)
Instituto Panameño de Turismo, Apartado 4421, PANAMA 5 (Tel: 507 26 7000; FAX: 507 26 3483) Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, PO Box 2072, BALBOA (Tel: 507 27 6022; FAX: 507 62 5942)
Asociación Nacional para la Conservación de la Naturaleza (ANCON), Apartado 1387, PANAMA 1 (Tel: 64 8100; FAX: 64 1836)
Fundación PA.NA.M.A., Apdo 66623, El Dorado, PANAMA
PEMASKY (Kuna wildlands management project), Apartado 2012, Paraíso, ANCON (Tel: 507 82 3226; FAX: 507 28 0516)
Comision Nacional del Medio Ambiente (CONAMA), Via EspaZa, Edificio Prosperidad, 3er Piso Tel: (507) 269-4133 Fax: (507) 264-3373
Alvarado, R. (1989) Procedimiento para la creación y manejo inicial de parques nacionales: dos estudios de caso en Panamá. M.S. Thesis, CATIE, Turrialba, Costa Rica.
Archibold, G. (1990) Pemasky en Kuna Yala. In: Heckadon, S. et al., Hacia una Centroamérica Verde. Editorial DEI, San Jose, Costa Rica. p.37-p.52.
Archibold, G. (1991) Conservación y comunidades indígenas en Panamá. Panamá: PEMASKY.
Candanedo, I., and Barborak, J.R. (1992) Draft country report for Panama. 7 pp.
Chang, R., R.A. (1987) Panamá y sus parques: el canal y algo más hacia el tercer milenio. RENARE presentation to the first international meeting "Los Parques Nacionales Hacia el Tercer Milenio". Caracas.
Dalfelt, A. and Morales, R. (1978) Plan maestro, parque nacional Darién. CATIE: Turrialba, Costa Rica. 213 pp.
Davis, S.D., Droop, S.J.M., Gregerson, P., Henson, L., Leon, C.J., Lamlein Villa-Lobos, J., Synge, H. and Zantovska, J.(1986) Plants in danger what do we know? IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge. 461 pp.
FAO (n.d.) La red latinoamericana de cooperación técnica en parques nacionales, otras áreas protegidas, flora y fauna silvestres. Oficina Regional de la FAO para América Latina y el Caribe, Santiago, Chile. 8 pp.
FAO (1966) Food and Agricultural Legislation, Vol. XV No.4, chapter XIII/I. p.1-p.15
Hartshorn, G.S. (1981) Forests and forestry in Panama. Institute of Current World Affairs. 16 pp.
Hartshorn, G.S. (1983) Wildlands conservation in Central America. In: Sutton, S.L. et al (Eds.), Tropical Rainforest: ecology and management. Spec. pub. 2, British Ecological Society. Blackwell Scientific Publications, Oxford, UK.
Heckadon, S. and McKay, A. (1982) Colonización y Destrucción de Bosques en Panamá. Asociación Panameña de Antropología. Panamá. 174 pp.
Herlihy, P.H. (1989) Panama's quiet revolution: comarca homelands and Indian rights. Cultural Survival Quarterly 13(3):17-24.
Holdridge, L.R. (1967) Life zone ecology; revised edition. Tropical Science Centre, San José, Costa Rica. 206 pp. (Unseen)
Houseal, B.L. (1985) Plan estratégico para el sistema de parques nacionales y reservas equivalentes de Panamá. RENARE/USAID.
Houseal, B.L. and Archibold, G. (1988) Kuna wildlands: traditional conservation.
IUCN Bulletin 18(10-12):8-10.
Illueca, J.E. (1988) Report on behalf of the Government of the Republic of Panama to the 7th meeting of Tropical Forest Action Plan (TFAP) forestry advisors. Tokyo, Japan, 9-11 November 1988. 13 pp.
INGTG (1988) Atlas nacional de la República de Panamá. Instituto Nacional Geográfico Tommy Guardia (INGTG). 222 pp. (Unseen)
INRENARE (1990a) Plan de acción forestal de Panamá. Instituto Nacional de Recursos Naturales Renovables, Panama City. 106 pp.
INRENARE (1990b) La cobertura boscosa de Panamá. Trabajo realizado conjuntamente por: Dirección Nacional de Desarrollo Forestal del INRENARE y la Dirección de Planificación. 8 pp.
IUCN (1976) Actas de la reunión centroamericana sobre manejo de recursos naturales y culturales. IUCN Publications New Series 36.
IUCN (1982) Directory of neotropical protected areas. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland. 436 pp.
LaBastille, A. (1976) An ecological survey of the proposed Volcán Barú National Park, Panamá. IUCN Occasional Paper 6:177.
Leigh, E.G., Jr., Rand, A.S. and Windsor, D.M. (Eds.) (1983) The Ecology of a neotropical forest: seasonal rhythms and longer term fluctuations. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington DC.
MacFarland, C. and Zadroga, F. (n.d.) Plan de manejo y desarrollo del Parque Nacional Volcán Barú, Panamá. CATIE, Turrialba, Costa Rica.
Morales, R. and Cifuentes, M. (Eds.) (1989) Sistema regional de áreas silvestres protegidas en América Central: plan de acción 1989-2000. CATIE, Turrialba, Costa Rica.
Morales, R., Barborak, J.R. and MacFarland, C. (1984) Planning and managing a multicomponent, multicategory international biosphere reserve: the case of the La Amistad/Talamanca Range/Bocas del Toro Wildlands Complex of Costa Rica and Panama. In: Conservation, Science, and Society. Natural Resources Research XXI, Vol. 2. UNESCO, Paris.
Nyrop, R. (Ed.) (1980) Panama: a country study. American University, Washington, DC.
OAS (1978) Proyecto de desarrollo integrado de la región oriental de Panamá-Darién. Organization of American States, Washington DC.
Ogle, R.A. and Jones, H.R. (1973) Inventariación y demonstraciones forestales, Panamá, parques nacionales: un plan de desarrollo. FO: SF/PAN 6 Informe técnico 10. FAO/PNUD, Panama.
Santos, E. (1991) Texaco se retira de exploración petrolera en Bocas del Toro. La Prensa, Panamá, sábado 14 de diciembre.
Ugalde, A. and Godoy, J.C. (1992) Regional review: Central America. Regional reviews, IUCN, IVth World Congress on National Parks and Protected Areas, Caracas, Venezuela, 1021 February 1992. p.13.3-p.13.27.
Vallester, P.E. (1981) Panamá. Informe de la mesa redonda sobre parques nacionales, otras áreas protegidas, flora y fauna silvestres. Santiago, Chile, 8-10 June.
Wong, M. and Ventocilla, J. (1986) A day on Barro Colorado Island. Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute: Panama.
ANNEX I: LEGAL INSTRUMENTS
Definitions of protected area designations, as legislated, together with authorities responsible for their administration.
Title : Decreto Ley No. 39 Ley General Forestal (Decree Law No. 19 General Forestry Law).
Date: 29 September 1966
Brief description: Declares that it is in the national interest to protect, conserve, renew and rationally utilise forest resources in the country. General forest regulations are stated. Provision is made for the classification of forest into three categories of forest reserve, details of which are given.
Administrative authority: The Servicio Forestal (Forestry Service) within the Ministerio de Agriculture, Comercio y Industria (Ministry of Agriculture, Commerce and Industry) is assigned responsibility for the administration of this Decree-Law.
Reserva Forestal (Forest Reserve): Bosque Productivo (Production Forest) A forested area declared suitable for the production of forest products. The main objective of the area is the generation of an annual or periodic income by the exploitation of its forest resources. Exploitation within the area is permitted only with prior approval of the Forest Service.
Bosque Protectivo (Protection Forest) A forested area which, by virtue of its situation or other specific characteristics, is important for regulating water systems; protecting soils, crops, roads, agricultural developments, river banks, streams and other water resources; preventing soil erosion and landslides; protecting and providing habitat for species of flora and fauna which are declared important. Protection forests may only be worked for improvement purposes.
Bosque Especial (Special Forest) All those forested areas maintained for scientific, educational, historic, tourism or recreational purposes. Land must be state owned and may be purchased for the establishment of such an area. This category includes public parks and woods, national parks, biological reserves, recreational areas, trees lining roads and associated stands and coppices. All exploitation is prohibited within special forest areas, except for specific cases in the public interest for which they were created.
Source: FAO (1966)
ANNEX II: PANAMANIAN PROTECTED AREAS LIST
|Name of area||IUCN & National Mgmt. Categories||Presence of Marine or Coastal Zones||Area
|Altos de Campana||II||NP||4,816||1977|
|Camino de las Cruces||II||NP||4,000||not avail.|
|Interoceanico Las Americas||II||NP||40,000||not avail.|
|Cenegón de Mangle||IV||WR||YES||1,000||1980|
|Isla de Cañas||IV||WR||8,000||not avail.|
|Islas Taboga y Uraba||IV||WR||YES||258||1984|
|Peñón de la Onda||IV||WR||2,200||1984|
|Golfo de Montijo||V||RA||YES||80,765||1990|
|Comarca Kuna Yala (San Blas)||VII||IR||YES||320,000||1938|
|Embere Wounan (Ember Orua)||VII||IR||432,600||1983|
|Alto de Darién||VIII||PF||201,000||1972|
|Golfo de Montijo||RW||YES||80,765||1990|
|San San, Pond Sak||RW||YES||16,414||not avail.|
|Reserva Natural Punta Patiño||RW||YES||26,000||not avail.|
|Parque Nacional Darién||X||WH||YES||579,000||1981|
|Parque Internacional La Amistad||X||WH||207,000||1990|
NP = National Parks
WR = Wildlife Refuges
NMP = National Marine Park
SR = Scientific Reserve
NM = Natural Monument
NP = Natural Park
FR = Forest Reserves
PF = Protection Forests
IR = Indigenous Reserves
WPR = Water Production Reserve
RA = Recreation Area
BIO = Biosphere Reserve
R W= Ramsar Wetland
WH = World Heritage Sites
Top of Page