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Darién Biosphere Reserve

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Darien Biosphere Reserve

Located in the Darién province along Panama’s border with Colombia, Darién National Park is not only the largest national park in Panama, but the largest tropical forest protected area in Central America. The region, known as the Darién, is home to a wealth of biodiversity of flora and fauna, including many endemic and endangered species. In addition to its biological richness, the park is home to the Emberá and Kuna Indian cultures. The larger Darién region encompasses nearly 2 million acres of protected areas, including Darién National Park and Biosphere Reserve, Punta Patiño Natural Reserve, Brage Biological Corridor, and the two Emberá indigenous reserves.

did you know?

The Darién has recieved international recognition as a World Heritage Site, due to its natural and cultural wealth, and as a Ramsar wetland site by IUCN—The World Conservation Union as a priority for birds in the Punta Patiño mangroves along the coastline.


Pacific Ocean, Playa Muerto, Darién National Park
© George Hanily


site profile

total area protected:
1.5 million acres
map of site

Central American Atlantic Moist, Choco/Darién Moist Forest, Eastern Panamanian Montane Forests

partner organization:
Asociación Nacional para la Conservación de la Naturaleza (ANCON)

Ecological Importance

The Darién is undoubtedly one of the most diverse ecosystems of the American tropics. With its large size, unaltered landscape, and inaccessibility, it is able to shelter viable populations of endangered species such as the jaguar, puma, spider monkey, wild dog, and tapir. Numerous endangered birds are found in the forest canopy of Darién, including the harpy eagle, peregrine falcon, blue-and-yellow macaw, great green macaw, and yellow-crowned parrot. The endangered spectacled bear and three-toed sloth, rarely seen in the wild, also find refuge in the Darién.

Four sediment-rich rivers flow through the park, providing the nutrients to sustain a 25,000-acre mangrove estuary with three mangrove species. Mangroves are one of many other diverse ecosystems found in the park, including cloud forests, lowland and tropical rainforests, riverine cativo forests, coastal and marine habitats, and wetlands.


Darién forests are under tremendous pressure from the expanding agricultural frontier and related colonization. Slash and burn agriculture has taken its toll on the Darién, resulting in huge tracts of deforested land. The Darién region’s human population is growing at a rate of about 5 percent a year and is quickly degrading natural resources. Although logging and mining is restricted in the area, these activities are still practiced outside the reserve and threaten the remaining forest cover in the buffer zone. Perhaps the greatest threat to the Darién is the construction of the Pan-American Highway and other roads which have brought colonists from other regions to settle in the region.

A Strategy of Success

Collaboration between PiP and its partner organization, The Asociación Nacional para la Conservación de la Naturaleza (ANCON), began in 1991. The project has supported joint conservation efforts between ANCON and the governmental agency, Instituto Nacional de Recusos Naturales Renovables (INRENARE).

ANCON centered its efforts on equipping and training park rangers, marking and patrolling paths and park boundaries, and acquiring property around the park. A number of capacity building and sustainable development projects have been implemented in local communities, including training, technical assistance, employment opportunities and small projects in forest management, tree nurseries, and improving agricultural techniques. ANCON was also able to convince the president of Panama to outlaw mining within the boundaries of Darién.

Upon site consolidation at Darién in 1997, additional funding and conservation activities were established with INRENARE, Fundación Natura of Colombia, and Ministry of the Environment to build upon the projects initiated under PiP.

Read more about Darién...

Asociación Nacional para la Conservación de la Naturaleza (ANCON)
The Nature Conservancy in Darién

Read more about projects in Panama...

La Amistad International Park/Bocas del Toro
Chagres/Panama Canal Watershed

Panama Partner Organizations

The Nature Conservancy in Panama