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Panama is, according to Conservation International, part of the Mesoamerican biodiversity hot spot stretching all the way through tropical Central America from Mexico. Its La Amistad International Park and Biosphere reserve, shared with Costa Rica, is the single largest pristine cloud forest area in Central America. Conservation International estimates that 75% of the migratory birds in the Western Hemisphere converge on the park. A recent study by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute's Center for Tropical Forest Science found that Panama's forests are more diverse in nature than those of the Amazon. Panama is home to endangered species such as the Jaguar and the Baird's Tapir as well as many other lesser known creatures.
Panamanian Golden Frog
The Panamanian golden frog (Atelopus zeteki) is now thought to be extinct in the wild after the last few known frogs were taken into captivity to protect them from a deadly fungus. Native to mountain tropical forests in western central Panama at altitudes of between 1,100 and 4,300 feet, it was found in mountain streams. The Panamanian golden frog does not croak but waves its hand to signal to other frogs. It is the national animal of Panama.
Ornate Spider Monkey
The ornate spider monkey (Ateles geoffroyi ornatus) is an endangered subspecies of Geoffrey's spider monkey that is found only in Panama and Costa Rica. There are believed to be about 30 monkeys remaining in the wild living in primary rain forest close to the Pacific Ocean coast. The subspecies is threatened by illegal hunting as well as by deforestation and disturbance of its habitat.
The harpy eagle (Harpia harpyja) is the largest eagle in the New World and is found in South and Central America as well as Panama. Harpy eagles live in undisturbed forest and feed on sloths, monkeys and birds. The species is the national bird of Panama but is considered to be threatened by extinction by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). There are thought to be over 200 breeding pairs in Panama although habitat destruction and illegal hunting continue to threaten the harpy eagle.
5 species of sea turtle visit Panama's waters and there are important nesting grounds for the highly endangered leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) on its Caribbean coast at Bocas del Toro. Leatherback turtles range widely in the oceans but always return to the same place to breed. They are threatened by egg collection as well as by being trapped in fishing lines and nets. The Sea Turtle Conservancy estimates that there are about 35,860 nesting females remaining in the world, of which up to 14,005 come to nest on Panamanian beaches.