• Keel-billed Toucan. Scott Hecker

    Indigenous-led conservation in the Majé Mountains, Panama

  • Howler Monkey. Scott Hecker

    Indigenous-led conservation in the Majé Mountains, Panama

  • Rio Hondo. Scott Hecker

    Indigenous-led conservation in the Majé Mountains, Panama

  • Rio Hondo Community Meeting. Scott Hecker

    Indigenous-led conservation in the Majé Mountains, Panama

  • Majé Mountains. Scott Hecker

    Indigenous-led conservation in the Majé Mountains, Panama

  • Whimbrel. Scott Hecker

    Indigenous-led conservation in the Majé Mountains, Panama

In Brief

Location:

Eastern Panama from the Pacific ridge of the Majé Mountains (1,432 m elevation) down to the mangrove forests of the Panama Bay Wildlife Refuge (Refugio de Vida Silvestre Humedal Bahía de Panamá). 

Goal:

To conserve species and habitats within the forested and riparian habitats of three Wounaan Indigenous territories totalling 22,326 hectares. 

Conservation Value:

Wounaan Indigenous territories harbour intact forest and species already extirpated outside this region.  They lie within the Majé Mountain range, which extends 60 km (37 miles) and has some of the highest biodiversity in the world, from its mountain tops to the Pacific coast. The landscape is the winter home to at least 65 Neotropical migratory bird species, including the Prothonotary and Canada warblers and support globally threatened species such as the Great Green Macaw, Harpy Eagle and Great Curassow. Research in the eastern-most highland of the range, the Chucantí Reserve (established with support from ICFC), indicate a high level of endemism and has uncovered new species, including: a staghorn beetle, a lungless salamander, a centipede snake, Anthurium (a plant), a Heliconia plant, and a Pierid butterfly There are also records of other new species, such as a climbing rat and a beetle.

Threats:

The Wounaan communities that constitute the project area are part of a patchwork of forested areas stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific and southeast through the Darien Province to Colombia. Outside Wounaan territories forests are being logged and cleared for cattle ranching and farming at one of the highest rates in Panama. Logging, land clearing for cattle ranching, and the destruction of coastal mangroves have already led to a tremendous loss of natural forest and wildlife in the region.  Using the access of the Pan American Highway,  settlers have cleared 40% of the land in eastern Panama.  The remaining forest - starkly seen from satellite imagery – is found in national parks and Indigenous territories, including Indigenous territories still without legal recognition like Rio Hondo, Platanares and Majé.

Actions & Results:

This project will help the Wounaan establish and protect their boundaries using satellite analysis, drone surveys, community-based monitors and signage, while they work to gain legal title to their lands.  Work plan info is outlined in the In Depth section below.

Project Field Partner:

Native Future

Cost:

ICFC 2021 budget: US $29,260.

Size of Area Involved:

22,326 hectares (223 km2)

Gallery

Click to enlarge an image

The view at Rio Plantares (photo: Scott Hecker)
Mangroves (photo: Scott Hecker)
Birding at Rio Hondo (photo: Scott Hecker)
 Bare-throated Tiger-Heron (photo: Scott Hecker)
Birding at Rio Hondo (photo: Scott Hecker)
Blue Dacnis (photo: Scott Hecker)
Panama Bay from Rio Plantanares (photo: Scott Hecker)
Rio Hondo (photo: Scott Hecker)
Prothonotary Warbler (photo: Scott Hecker)

In More Depth...

Current work plan

Territorial Monitoring and Enforcement:

  • Employ next generation technology and support community-based monitors and local authorities to defend their territories from encroachment, deforestation and degradation.
  • Wounaan territorial alerts, map updating and coordination with community-based monitors.
  • Community-based monitoring in 3 communities
  • The purchase of drones, trap cameras, telecommunications and other equipment that will enable faster and Covid-19-safe gathering of evidence to substantiate legal complaints.
  • Shepherding legal complaints by Wounaan authorities and lawyer.
  • Putting in place permanent boundary demarcation (cairns and signs).

Community Ecotourism and Conservation Agreement:

  • Align conservation and ecotourism development; outline benefit sharing agreements and natural asset protection.
  • Conduct up to 6 workshops in Rio Hondo and Platanares to develop community agreements on plan future bird conservation and ecotourism.
  • Complete legal review of the community agreements.

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