Find out more about conservation areas in Panamá

Location And General Description

The Darien region encompasses the Panamanian province of Darién, the indigenous districts of Guna Yala, Madugandí, Wargandí, Emberá-Wounaan, the districts of Chimán and the east of Chepo, all in the Republic of Panama, and the northern departments of Chocó and Antioquia, west of the Gulf of Urabá, in Colombia.

The meaning of Darién originates in the language spoken by the indigenous Cueva, an indigenous tribe that was exterminated by the Conquistadores throughout the sixteenth century. Precisely of the name Tanel or Tanela, river that ends in the left margin of the low Atrato. The river Tanela (the Aluka Tiwal of the natives), Spanishized and degenerated by the pronunciation, remained with the name of Darien. With this name was designated the region where they settled and the different indigenous communities that were there or were established.


Rainfall reaches 1,700 to 2,000 mm annually in the vicinity of the inlet of Garachiné, with a marked period of drought between the months of January to April. However, in the foothills and valleys of the interior of the province, rainfall can exceed 8,000 mm per year and there is virtually no dry season, because it is framed in the region considered the rainiest on the planet. The temperature varies according to the altitude between 17 ° and 35 ° C. The different types of soils and their suitability for use are mainly associated with their topographic variations and geological generating materials.

The region has a dense and rugged nature. The tropical forest in the Darién National Park is so dense that it is the only place in Panama where the Pan-American Highway (which runs from Alaska to Argentina) does not arrive.


The Darién is the place with the highest number of sport fishing records of any other place in the world, as well as the home of the Harpy Eagle, the largest predatory bird in the world, once in danger of extinction and now rehabilitating itself Thanks to conservationists.

Darién is considered one of the most biologically diverse regions of Central America and there is a great variety of landscapes that range from coastal plains and low coasts to hills and high mountainous areas. This is the region of Panama that is most associated with jungles, mangroves and rivers; impressions that come from the time of the conquest, and still persist in most of the population, partly by the relative inaccessibility of the east of the country.

Although studies indicate the existence of a great biological diversity, which includes widely distributed and endemic species, known only to the province of Darién, it is presumed that the height and precipitation conditions that exist in the mountainous areas of this region (Pirre and Tacarcuna hills), make these areas a place where plant and animal species can exist, not described by science.

Types And Gravity Of Threats

The Darien is the main receptor of settlers from the west of the country, and at the same time a large number of extractive activities of its natural resources. The unplanned exploitation and use of the natural resources of the Darien province occurred from the colonial period with gold exploitation in the northern region of the Darién, in the sixteenth century, and recently with the extraction of cork, tagua and wood for purposes commercial.

However, the traditional use of natural resources and biodiversity in Darien is essential, especially for indigenous ethnic groups, since their ancestral times have depended on life activities such as subsistence hunting, artisanal fishing and the collection of products of the forest (seeds, fruits, roots). Additionally, the use of natural resources and biodiversity is related to mythical-religious beliefs, traditional uses, crafts and botanical medicine.

The plants are one of the most used resources by the communities due to their nutritional, medicinal, ornamental, artisan, spiritual and as building materials for their homes. In addition to its traditional use, plants also have an important economic use for some communities and their inhabitants, through the sale of wood. In the commercial field Darién has distinguished itself as the most important source of wood in the country.

This activity, which has been mainly in the hands of large timber companies, is the one that has had the greatest impact in the province, since the wood is extracted to satisfy not only the national market, but also the world market. Normally the product is marketed through intermediaries of the capital city, so Darién does not receive any benefit from this activity.

Darién is the province with the largest amount of forest cover in Panama, (75% of its territory and 37.5% nationally), it is also the one that loses more forests annually, according to ANAM data (INRENARE, 1995), which indicates , in addition to the existing forest cover, the amount of forest lost in the country between 1987 and 1992.

The amount of forests cut in Darién represents 36.2% of the deforested area in the country, which reveals that in this region more forest cover was eliminated during those six years. Although this figure represents only 8% of the province’s forest area by 1986, the rate of deforestation of 50,000 hectares per year increases as people emphasize subsistence agriculture and extensive livestock.

For the dry season of the 97-98 period, deforestation caused by the uncontrolled wildfires of Darién and the eastern region of Panama, equaled the figures cited above for the period 87-92, according to information published in local newspapers. However, official ANAM figures for the period from December 1997 to June 1998 revealed that 77,586 hectares of forest and stubble were lost due to forest fires throughout Panama.

These figures are much lower than those published in 1997 by the Central American Council of Forests and Protected Areas (CCAB / CCAP) of the Central American Commission for Environment and Development (CCAD), for the same period, which are 146,860 hectares and 104,900 hectares of land. pastures, stubble and crops, for a total of 251,760 hectares affected by fires throughout the country.

Actual State

The legal designation of Darién National Park (PND), and other protected areas such as the Biological Corridor of the Serrania de Bagre, Serranía Filo del Tallo Hydrological Reserve, Patiño Point Wetland, Canglón Forest Reserve, Punta Patiño Private Nature Reserve and Emberá-Wounaan Comarca , contributed effectively to stop the uncontrolled migration towards the mountainous and wooded areas of the province.

Subsequently, the designation in 1983 of the PND as a Biosphere Reserve, seeks to consolidate the protection of these ecosystems, through a balanced integration between the population and its natural environment, and thus meet human needs through the promotion of ecologically sustainable development.

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