The Environment

With its huge expanses of tropical rainforest, the isthmus of Panama is one of the most biologically diverse areas in the world. Its unique ecology stems in part from its connection to two continents. Birds are a primary indicator of biodiversity and Panama takes a grand prize: it has 936 species of birds, more than the United States and Canada combined. Until 1996 Panama held the Audbon Society's world record for identifying the most species of birds in a single day - 357 species were counted in one 24-hour period. There are 125 animal species found only in Panama. Panama is also privileged to be home to the Smithsonian Institute of Tropical Research, the world's primary tropical scientific investigation center, which for 80 years has been cataloging and monitoring this vast ecological heritage.

The future of the environment, particularly the protection of Panama's fabulous rainforests is a major concern. Environmentalist groups like ANCON are doing an effective job raising awareness of the key issues. But like most developing countries Panama simply does not have the resources to do the job. Good laws exist, but few funds are available to enforce them. For example, a handful of poorly equipped forest rangers are unable to enforce the laws enacted to preserve the vast national parks. For a more complete analysis of the environmental situation see Lonely Planet Panama.