The Nature Conservancy - Parks in Peril
home how we work where we work more resources about us
Caribbean   Mexico   Central America   South America  


Bosawas Biosphere Reserve

how you can help


Bosawa Biosphere ReservePIP 2000

Located in north-central Nicaragua, the Bosawas Biosphere Reserve takes its name from three significant geological features in the region: the Bocay River, the Saslaya Mountain and the Waspuk River. Bosawas covers almost 7 percent of the total land of the country and is a keystone in protecting the Meso-American Biological Corridor, which runs the length of Central America. Around 21,000 indigenous Mayangna and Miskito people live along the rivers that cut through the rainy jungles of Bosawas.

did you know?

Numerous petroglyphs throughout Bosawas attest to long history of the Mayangna and Miskito people in these tropical forests.

Bocay River

Bocay River © Barry Tessman

site profile

total area protected:
1.8 million acres

Tropical Moist Broadleaf Forest

partner organization:

Ecological Importance

The remoteness of Bosawas has prevented the collection of much biological data, but the area is known to support populations of threatened Central American animals, such as puma, tapir, and jaguar. Two-hundred fifteen known bird species are found in Bosawas, including many North American migrants such as wood thrushes, cerulean warblers, and Canada warblers. Endangered birds such as the harpy eagle and green macaw are found here year round. Over 270 plant species are found in the lush Mosquitian forest, including the commercially valuable Spanish cedar and mahogany.


Bosawas is threatened by much of the same stresses experienced throughout the country. Rapid and unsustainable land clearing for agriculture results in deforestation, soil erosion, water pollution, and other threats to the area’s natural resources. Conflicts over land tenure and control of natural resources predominate in the area.

A Strategy of Success

The Parks in Peril (PiP) project in Bosawas is defined by working with the local indigenous communities and organizations to achieve conservation success.  Because land tenure underlies many other resource issues in the area, PiP has focused on titling of indigenous territories. Since 1993, The Nature Conservancy has supported the creation of six government-recognized indigenous territories in the heart of Bosawas. This demarcation has dramatically slowed the advance of the agricultural frontier. In 2003, the Nicaraguan parliament passed an indigenous territories titling law, based on TNC past and current achievements. This law marked the first time in Central America that a considerable amount of land was granted to minority groups: 21,000 people in 41 communities were given title to 7 percent of Nicaragua’s territory. 

The local communities of Bosawas have requested PiP’s help in establishing community-based monitoring programs in order for local groups to eventually evaluate and regulate the threats to the area’s natural resources. PiP and the indigenous communities are working with the St. Louis Zoo in the U.S. to develop these programs. Local forest guards are being trained to monitor mammal populations to control local hunting activities.

CEDAPRODE is working to promote sustainable activities in cacao and rice production. To make up for the loss of traditional seeds from Hurricane Mitch, many families have had to clear more forest to plant more crops. CEDAPRODE is working to apply agroecological models used in other parts of the country that plant seeds adapted to local environmental conditions. These methods can reduce soil erosion and the need for agrochemical pest control. Additionally, Conservation Area Planning (CAP) workshops are being held with participation by six indigenous community leaders, local scientists, and government representatives to discuss the main threats to cultural and natural resource conservation targets.

Read more about Bosawas...

The Nature Conservancy in Bosawas
Online Field Guide to Bosawas

Read more about projects in Nicaragua...

Nicaragua Partner Organizations

The Nature Conservancy in Nicaragua