A Guide to the Species of Wildlife Found in Panama

A Guide to the Species of Wildlife Found in Panama

Bridging the gap between North and South America, Panama is a haven for diverse and breathtaking wildlife. Animals are free to wander between both continents, so the country fosters biodiversity unlike anywhere else in the world. According to Los Islotes, “The country is home to 218 mammal species, 226 species of reptile, 164 amphibian species, and 125 animal species found nowhere else in the world. Panama also boasts 940 avian species, which is the largest number in Central America.” To learn more about the incredible animals that call this beautiful country home, here is a guide to the species of wildlife found in Panama.

Land dwellers

With an area that covers 29,157 square miles (75,517 square kilometers), Panama is comprised of breathtaking landscapes. From lush tropical forests to pristine islands, the country is an ideal home for many land-dwelling animals. While you wander through the varied landscapes, these are some of the diverse animals you may encounter.

  • Primates: Panama is home to six distinct native money species. These include capuchins, howler monkeys, night monkeys, spider monkeys, tamarins, and squirrel monkeys.
  • Big cats: Five species of big cats prowl through the dense Panamanian jungles. These include cougars, jaguars, jaguarundis, ocelots, and margays.
  • Sloths: Panama’s jungles are home to three of the six species of sloth—one of which, the pygmy three-toed sloth, is endangered. The other two species are the brown-throated sloth and Hoffman’s two-toed sloth.
  • Rodents: Common rodent species found throughout Panama include the agouti, Rothschild’s porcupine, a wide variety of mice, squirrels, and rats, and the unusually large capybara.

Winged and wonderful

Known as an incredible bird-watching destination, Panama is home to many winged species with more diversity than both the United States and Canada combined. From birds to bats, these are some of the winged creatures you may see gliding above you in Panama.

  • Birds: Due to the vast variety of bird species that soar above Panama, it’s difficult to list them all. Particularly noteworthy species, however, include the unique blue-footed booby, nearly 20 varieties of parrots and parakeets, five species of macaws, three species of albatross, and eight species of toucan.
  • Bats: Around ten percent of the world’s bat species—roughly 120—live in Panama. Among these species are the tent-making bat, the fringe-lipped bat, the little yellow-shouldered bat, the hairy big-eared bat, and the orange nectar bat.

Beneath the waves

With its name derived from the native Kuna Indian language’s word for “abundance of fish,” it’s no surprise that Panama features numerous finned creatures. Thanks to the protected reefs along both of Panama’s coasts, you’ll likely find these aquatic creatures beneath the country’s turquoise waves.

  • Whales: Of the many whale species found in Panama’s waters, humpback whales are the most prominent. Panama is one of only two places in the world where humpback whales from both the northern and southern hemispheres migrate to give birth. Between July and October, a staggering 2,000 humpback whales from Antarctica populate the warm water. In addition to humpback whales, minke whales, blue whales, sperm whales, and orca whales may also be found beneath Panama’s shimmering surface.
  • Dolphins: Among the 12 species of dolphin found in the tropical waters of Panama, the most common are the Pantropical spotted dolphin and the large Pacific bottlenose dolphin. Additional species include thespinner dolphin, short-beaked common dolphin, long-snouted spinner dolphin, rough-toothed dolphin, and the striped dolphin.
  • Sharks: Over 30 species of sharks lurk beneath the tropical waters of Panama’s coast, such as bull sharks, nurse sharks, tiger sharks, white-tipped reef sharks, and massive whale sharks.
  • Sea turtles: Out of the world’s seven species of sea turtles, five can be found in Panama throughout the year. These species include the leatherback, hawksbill, green turtle, olive ridley, and logger head turtle.
  • Game fish: A popular sport-fishing destination, Panama’s waters are home to over 50 species of game fish. Among these species are the roosterfish, striped marlin, cubera snapper, white marlin, black marlin, sailfish, yellowfin tuna, wahoo, and the mullet snapper.
  • Manta rays: The warm coastal waters of Panama create an ideal breeding ground for a variety of manta ray species such as giant, devil, mobula, and eagle, which all can be seen year-round.

Scaly and slimy

Panama’s diverse landscape of wetlands, rivers, rainforests, and lakes provides the perfect home to many scaly and slimy creatures. From reptiles to amphibians, these are some of the unique animals you may find slithering, scurrying, and hopping around Panama.

  • Frogs: Among the many frog species that live in Panama, particularly noteworthy varieties include the Panamanian golden frog, the smoky jungle frog, Fleischmann’s glass frog, Rosenberg’s gladiator tree frog, the red-eyed tree frog, and the veined tree frog.
  • Snakes: Panama serves as a habitat to various snake species—many of which are venomous—such as the fer de lance, horned palm viper, hog nose viper, bushmasters, coral snake, and sea snake.
  • Lizards: Scurrying up trees, along beaches, and around the forest floors of Panama are lizards such as the Canopy lizard, yellow-headed gecko, and coral scorpion lizard, as well as black, green, smooth-headed, and spiny-tailed iguanas.
  • Crocodilians: An abundance of crocodilians can be found in Panama’s wetlands, lowlands, lakes, and rivers. There are, however, only two species in Panama—the spectacled caiman and the American crocodile.

To get a closer look at Panama’s incredible wildlife, Selva Terra Island Resort offers many nature-focused tours and activities. Depending on the type of wildlife you want to see, you can choose from our high-quality hiking, scuba diving, sport fishing, whale watching, or birdwatching tours. In their natural habitat, you get the chance to see some of Panama’s most spectacular wildlife, such as whales, sharks, monkeys, frogs, birds, sloths, and more. Plus, if you choose to stay at our Panama Pacific resort, you’ll receive complimentary access to all our non-motorized marine equipment, such as stand-up paddle boards, snorkeling supplies, and kayaks, so you can explore Panama’s waters at your own pace. For more information regarding our nature tours and activities, contact us.

A Guide to the Species of Wildlife Found in Panama infographic

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