Location and Values: The Coiba National Park and its Special Zone of Marine Protection is located off the southwest coast of Panama in the tropical eastern Pacific. It includes Coiba Island and 38 smaller islands (with a total area of 536 km2), and a surrounding marine area (2,165 km2). The islands are relatively close to the mainland and Coiba supports an extensive area of tropical moist forest which serves as a last refuge for a number of threatened species that have largely disappeared from the rest of Panama, such as the scarlet macaw and crested eagle. At the same time, the ecological isolation of the islands has led to the evolution of a significant number of endemic taxa of mammals, birds and plants, making Coiba and its surrounding islands an important site for the scientific study of island biogeography, evolution and natural selection. The marine environment includes coral reefs, and a diversity of habitats from the shallow seas of the continental platform to areas of deeper waters and oceanic influence. It supports a huge diversity of marine fishes (760 species) as well as turtles, 33 species of sharks and 20 species of whales and dolphins, serving as an important seasonal habitat for migratory species within the Tropical Eastern Pacific Marine Corridor.
Conservation Status and Prospects. According to IUCN’s Conservation Outlook Assessment (2017) the conservation status of the Coiba National Park and its Special Zone of Marine Protection is of ‘significant concern’. The IUCN report notes that unsustainable fishing is affecting ecological processes and biodiversity in the marine environment, including threatened and near-threatened species. In addition, there are emerging threats from rapidly increasing tourism, climate change and the possible introduction of invasive species. IUCN notes some ongoing difficulties in providing effective protection and management of the site, while commending the fact that feral livestock (a legacy of the island’s previous role as a penal colony) has been (almost) eliminated.
UNESCO Official Website
IUCN Conservation Outlook
UNEP-WCMC Site Description