Posts Tagged ‘puma’

My first visit to Mamoni Arriba

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

It is easy to quickly recognize the beauty of the Mamoni landscape. Multiple hill tops spread across the landscape were visible from the road to Mamoni Arriba. The surprise I felt laid in the fact that these hills and mountains were fully covered with jungle and not cattle pastures. These days, mountain tops covered with jungle are rare sights in the Panamanian country side, but not in Mamoni. I felt proud and content to be part of this journey into the Mamoni Valley.

I parted from Panamá city early in the morning towards the North East into Mamoni Arriba. My objective was to meet the local people and understand the landscape so that I could plan a longer visit. Luckily for me, I was accompanied by Roland who was born in Mamoni and has been working for Earth Train for many years. I was also accompanied by Carlos Andrés who is a Panamanian lawyer that works for Earth Train and has spent valuable time working in the valley. I had been warned about the access road to Mamoni Arriba because during the rainy season it becomes difficult to ride. However, Rolando’s driving skills did the trick and got us to Mamoni Arriba in no time.

The landscape going down the road and into the Mamoni valley was truly amazing. The valley per say was mostly covered by pasture land. In the background I could see the mountains that surround the valley and that are shared with the Chagres National Park and the Comarca of Kuna Yala. The forest that lies on these mountains is what we in ecoReserve are working to protect. I was imagining myself crossing the mountains to Kuna Yala when Rolando decided to stop at “el filo”. El “filo” is the spot with the highest altitude on the road to Mamoni Arriba. Rolando showed me the Caribbean towards the North. I knew it was the Caribbean because I could clearly see the islands that are part of Kuna Yala. I’ve never visited these islands but now I can say that I’ve seen them from a distance.

Once we made it to Mamoni Arriba we met with Arsenio. Arsenio is a very funny man and with a lot of energy. I wanted him to take me to the forest, to a very “specific spot”! Since I had never been in the valley the only way I could explain to him where I wanted to go was by showing him an aerial photography of Mamoni Arriba. In somewhat of a silly manner he told me that, “he couldn’t understand the image because the highest altitude he had ever seen his house from was 14 meters”. I immediately thought to myself how I had felt the same way the first time I looked for my house on Google earth. I started laughing.

We spend quite sometime figuring out a way to reach the “specific spot” that I wanted to visit. We figured out our starting point for my next visit. The starting point will be where the Espavé stream connects with the Mamoní River. I met with many more people and got a very good feeling for the site.

Pumas – the other large cat of the Panamanian forest

Saturday, June 12th, 2010

If you sense the presence of a large cat while walking in the jungles of Panama, the elusive mountain lion (puma concolor) is probably not the first thing that comes to mind. Its secretive behavior has been a double edged sword, helping it survive the targeted predator hunts of the 19th and 20th centuries but also rendering it far less famous than its distant relative, the jaguar. Despite its relative anonymity, the mountain lion is the only other mammal which has demonstrated the same versatility as humans in conquering the American continents. Evidence of its wide range is reflected in the myriad number of names it has collected over the centuries. The mountain lion that overlooks the Canadian Rockies is the same species as the panther that wanders the jungles of Florida and the puma that scales the Andes of Peru.

Once a member of a guild of large cats which included the American Lion, the American cheetah and the saber-toothed tiger, mountain lions are now the largest wild felid remaining in North America and the second largest in South America. Genetic evidence suggests that North American mountain lions went extinct along with all the other large cats at the end of the Pleistocene 10000 years ago and that North America was reconquered by mountain lions from the south. Thus, the presence of mountain lions in the United States and Canada today speaks to the importance of maintaining linkages such as the Central American Corridor between North and South America.

In North America, male mountain lions weigh around 55-65 kg and females weigh about 40-45 kg. Mountain lions of the tropics tend to be smaller than their temperate counterparts, mostly likely due to environmental influences and possibly because of competition with the sympatric jaguars. Mountain lions are impressive ambush predators that can take down prey as large as a moose and as small as a mouse. Most mountain lions, except females and their kittens, live solitary lives and on vast territories.

In Panama, mountain lions are currently protected from hunting are are not considered endangered by the IUCN. However, the mountain lion’s need for large areas of intact habitat, slow breeding rate, and occasional taste for livestock sometimes brings it into conflict with neighboring human populations. Additionally, large predators, due to their low densities and reliance on prey species, can often be quickly wiped out by people if they are deemed to be a threat. For these reasons, ecoReserve will promote environmental education programs in the Mamoni Valley that will help local residents learn to safely live alongside large cats such as jaguars and mountain lions. By protecting an important habitat corridor, ecoReserve will help maintain the linkage that allows mountain lions to move between the two continents.