Do You Know of the Harpy Eagle?
The harpy eagle, Harpia harpyja, is the national bird of Panama. At 3 feet tall and with a wingspan of more than 6 feet, this predator is the strongest raptor in the world and the undisputed ruler of the forest: despite its size, this eagle can fly in almost total silence through the trees to hunt its favorite food, sloths and monkeys!
Unfortunately, wild harpy eagles are now rare in Panama because they have lost a large portion of their habitat to deforestation. And it's not just harpy eagles: jaguars, tapirs, spider monkeys, and many more species are in danger due to habitat loss.
The protection of Panama's environment is especially important because of its amazing diversity. Even though it's small in size, Panama has more species of birds than both the United States and Canada combined. However, half of Panama's forests have already disappeared and about 6% of its animals are in danger of extinction.
Loss vs Degradation
Impressively, more than 20% of Panama is already protected in national parks and other reserves, the highest in all of Central America. While the action of protecting areas is essential to reducing habitat loss and represents Panama's dedication to the environment, protected areas may not be enough to avoid the risk entirely.
The problem is that habitat loss is usually obvious: where there used to be a forest, there is now a field, road, or buildings. Habitat degradation is not as obvious. Even protected areas can suffer degradation when habitats are fragmented, polluted, or invaded by exotic species. Our approach to environmental protection attempts to address both issues of habitat loss and degradation within protected areas.
What We're Doing
To address the problem of habitat loss, ADOPTA has taken an active role in the protection of endangered ecosystems. In particular, we manage a private nature reserve of more than 1500 acres in the Majé mountains on the border of the Darién province in eastern Panama. The reserve is located within an Important Bird Area, according to the Audubon Society, and contains a small patch of cloud forest near the peak of Cerro Chucantí, the largest mountain in the range. Cloud forests are very rare habitats in Central America and contain many endemic species which are found nowhere else in the world. This is especially true in Chucantí, where more than a dozen new species have been described since 2004, many of which live nowhere else on Earth.
In addition, we partner with many other organizations (both governmental and non-governmental) to combat the problem of habitat loss. The reserve in Chucantí, for example, is protected in part with the support of SENAFRONT, the national police, who help us patrol the reserve to prevent poaching and other illegal activities. In other regions of Panama, such as Camino de Cruzes national park in the Canal area, volunteers with ADOPTA work with other organizations of the Alliance for One Million to reforest areas that have been invaded by exotic species. Finally, we help organize events throughout the year to clean beaches or otherwise encourage the public to become interested in the environment to avoid accidental environmental damage.