ADOPTA began in Panama, but that is not the only reason why we focus out conservation efforts here. The environment of Panama is very unique, but is also under severe environmental pressure with potentially far-reaching consequences.
The Bridge of the Americas
North America and South America were separated until Panama connected them about three million years ago. This event changed the world: when the current of the Atlantic Ocean was cut off, the global climate changed and species from the Americas were able to mix for the first time. Panama also became a bridge for humans, and today contains a great variety of cultures as well as the Panama Canal–the most important connection for trade between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Unfortunately, the Canal is now in danger from environmental problems such as deforestation, drought, and erosion.
Because it is tropical, Panama only has two seasons–wet and dry–which means that natural resources such as water and sunlight are more or less constantly available throughout the year. This has allowed for the coexistence of an amazing diversity of species in the country, including more than 10,000 species of plants, 200 mammals, and more birds that the United States and Canada combined.
Because Panama is very thin and has many mountain ranges, its climate is strongly affected by both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, creating a variety of habitats throughout the country. The Caribbean is warmer, and thus experiences more evaporation. The loss of water in this way makes the Caribbean much saltier, and therefore it hosts different species than the Pacific. The water which evaporates from the Caribbean crosses over Panama and gets stuck in the mountains in the center of the country, where it falls as rain. This pattern leads to the Pacific side of the country being drier than the Caribbean, and so different species live in different sides of the country. Some areas are especially unique and contain endemic species such as the Escudo Hummingbird, Amazilia tzacatl handleyi, or the Chucantí Salamander, Bolitoglossa chucantiensis which don't live in any other place in the world.
Many of the species from North or South America, such as coyotes, Canis altrans, and capybaras, Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris, are also able to coexist in Panama while migratory animals, such as Blackpoll Warblers, Setophaga striata, travel through Panama during their annual trips between North and South America.
Although Panama has many unique species, we would not need conservation efforts if their environment was completely protected. The pressures of urbanization, agriculture, and exotic species are placing native species in danger; about 6% are considered in danger of extinction at a national or worldwide scale.
Despite these challenges, Panama has demonstrated their dedication to the environment by protecting more than 20% of the country in national parks or other reserves. Many communities also depend on ecotourism or the Panama Canal for their income, which in turn largely depend on a healthy environment. With this solid foundation, we are dedicated to protect vulnerable habitats and species and improving the quality of ecosystem services for the citizens of Panama.