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Wounaan Bird Guides Practice Their Tour

In February 2023, bird guides of Rio Hondo and Platanares put their training to practice and guided a group of 7 acting ecotourists along two routes: the Aquatic Tour, which explores the beautiful mangrove estuary and rivers of their territories, and the 3-kilometer Crested Eagle Trail.

On the water and land it is possible to see more than 110 species of birds in mature and secondary tropical and mangrove forests. Among them are national birds such as the Great Tinamou, the Red-capped, Golden-collared and Golden-headed Manakins, Black-tailed and Slaty-tailed Trogons and a variety of hummingbird colors. The majestic King Vulture dominates the skies and with luck you will see the Crested Eagle. The tour begins from a port an hour outside of Panama City.

An over-night tour, visitors were treated to cultural presentations, served delicious locally harvested foods, fresh from farm and sea, and took home exquisitely crafted local handicrafts.

In 2021, Native Future's Wounaan Bird Count re-launched its bird identification, guide-training and ecotourism development program in Puerto Lara, Rio Hondo and Platanares, in conjunction with the project, "Digital Transformation of Indigenous-led Ecotourism and Conservation". Bird guiding and tour development is one of three components; the other two are digitally connecting the community ecotourism providers to the tourism markets and preparing them to financially manage their businesses.

Rio Hondo and Platanares are two of three Wounaan communities along the Pacific Coast of the Maje Mountains; the third is the community of Maje. Their territories encompass the largest remaining intact forests of the Pacific slope of the Majé Range. They stretch from 4,700 foot peaks down to mangrove estuaries and the Bay of Panama protected area.

The Pacific slope of the Majé Mountain range of Panama is highly threatened and little documented migratory bird habitat to at least 89 neotropical migratory bird species, including 23 Birds of Conservation Concern of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Two Important Bird Areas and one nature reserve are located just over the northern ridge of the Wounaan territories. For decades, the Wounaan way of life and determination to protect their tropical forests from deforestation has been the only thing that has kept these tropical forests standing and critically important bird habitat protected.

Rio Hondo, Platanares and Maje are safeguarding 68,000 acres of this neotropical migratory bird habitat by monitoring and enforcing their territorial boundaries and restoring their degraded forests. (Read more about recent progress here.)

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