Animals in Panama

Animals In Panama

Animals in Panama

Iconic Animals in the Unique Lands of Panama

With a plethora of biodiverse national parks spanning the country, there’s a wide array of animals in Panama for visitors to enjoy. From La Amistad (on the western border with Costa Rica) to Darien National Park (bordering Colombia in the east), the country is filled with more than 10,000 types of plants and hundreds of species of mammals, reptiles, and amphibians.

Whether you prefer fertile land covered in lush rainforests or tropical beaches surrounded by big, blue ocean, Panama has plenty of natural beauty to spare. The country’s coast is dotted by islands such as the Bocas del Toro archipelago, Pearl Islands, and San Blas Islands, with abundant marine life to be seen along with the picturesque scenic views.

Here’s a look at some of the more iconic creatures you may see on International Expeditions' Panama tours in this unique land, which serves as a crossroads between North and South America.

AMPHIBIANS

According to the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, there are over 200 different species of amphibians found in Panama. But the red-eyed tree frog is one of the most beloved, with its small green body and the piercing red eyes that give it its name. In Panama, these little amphibians are commonly spotted in tropical rainforest habitats, usually resting behind large leaves during the day and becoming more active at night.

red eyed tree frog in Panama

BUSH DOG

With an appearance more like a large weasel or a very small (around 13 pounds) bear, the bush dog is a relatively rare and unusual animal of Panama. They’re very hard to spot, usually preferring to hide in rainforests. They’re quite fond of the water and feed on reptiles and small mammals. Sometimes they have been known to hunt for larger mammals, including capybaras, as well.

BUSH DOG in Panama

CAPYBARA

The massive capybara is a “rodent of unusual size,” and one species can be found in Panama. The Panamanian capybara has short brown fur and short limbs, but at an average of 60 pounds, they’re a bit smaller than their cousins in South America. The capybara spends a lot of its time near the water, and can often be seen near the Chagres River.

CAPYBARA in Panama

DOLPHINS

Dolphins are among the smartest creatures on Earth, and the Atlantic bottlenose dolphin is particularly renowned for playful interaction. They can often be seen off the coast of Panama, swimming in pods and leaping in the waves created by boats. In addition to the clicking sounds they use for communication, they’re known for their speed, agility, and use of echolocation to find prey.

Dolphins in Panama

GIANT ANTEATER

Also known as the ant bear, the giant anteater is a large mammal that can weigh up to 90 pounds. They’ve got a long, narrow tongue and long snout to match, with a sense of smell 40 times more powerful than that of humans. These animals can be found throughout much of Central and South America, but in Panama, they’re most often spotted in Darien National Park (a UNESCO site).

GIANT ANTEATER in panama

GREEN IGUANA

The green iguana is one of many reptiles most commonly seen in Panama. These ancient-looking lizards love the rainforest, where they feed on plants and fruit. If you get a chance to visit the Isla Iguana Wildlife Refuge– a 58-hectare island reserve three miles off the east coast of the Azuero Peninsula– it’s a great place to find them, as well as thousands of birds and a thriving coral reef system.

GREEN IGUANA in Panama

JAGUAR

Panama is home to several impressive cat species, but none more formidable than the jaguar. These majestic cats are known for their distinctive spots, swimming prowess, and pursuit of many different types of prey along the water. Unfortunately, Central America’s jaguar populations are on the decline due to human interference, deforestation, and other issues.

JAGUAR in Panama

JAGUARUNDI

One of the most unusual species of cats in Panama is the jaguarundi, which can be found in both arid and rainforest habitats. They’re considerably smaller and slimmer than jaguars– measuring up to 30 inches (not including the tail) and weighing less than 20 pounds– with solid coats in black, brown, or red. These cats can usually be found near water, feeding on various types of small mammals.

JAGUARUNDI in Panama
Photo Credit: Fábio N. Manfredini

MARGAY

The margay is smaller than the other wild cats in Panama, measuring 19 to 30 inches long and weighing less than 10 pounds. These beautiful spotted cats are known for their impressive tree-climbing skills: They can even climb down trees head-first, unlike many other cats. Though they are mostly nocturnal, daytime sightings are not uncommon.

MARGAY in Panama
Photo Credit: Flickr User Tambako The Jaguar

MONKEYS

From two kinds of howler monkeys and spider monkeys to Geoffrey’s tamarin, there are eight different species of monkeys in Panama. The white-headed capuchin– a small but energetic monkey with a white face and head– is probably the most commonly seen. They’re known for their climbing skills and territorial nature, while squirrel monkeys are known for their speed and Panamanian night monkeys for their big eyes.

Monkeys in Panama

MORPHO BUTTERFLIES

Bright blue, iridescent wings identify the beloved morpho butterfly, another species that is commonly seen throughout Panama. Blue morphos can be seen flying through the air in the daytime, drinking fruit juice and tree sap, and sampling the air with their antennae. There are actually more than two dozen subspecies, with a dazzling array of color patterns on their wings.

MORPHO BUTTERFLIES in Panama

SEA TURTLES

Panama is a popular place for several of the world’s sea turtle species. Coiba National Park, which is located south of mainland Panama, is visited by four types of sea turtles: leatherback, loggerhead, hawksbill, and green turtles. The uncrowded beaches of Isla Coiba (the site of a prison during the Noriega years) are a great spot for sea turtles to lay their eggs before heading back to the water.

SEA TURTLES in Panama

SLOTHS

Sloths come in two different families– two-toed and three-toed. The pygmy three-toed sloth (one of several varieties found in Panama) is native to Isla Escudo de Veraguas, which is located north of mainland Panama. The pygmy sloth is unique for its preferred mangrove forest habitat. But, like other types of sloths, they’re helpless on the ground and surprisingly adept at swimming.

SLOTHS in Panama

TAPIRS

Looking like a bizarre cross between a pig, a donkey, and a rhino, the tapir can be spotted at numerous national parks and wildlife reserves in Panama. They can often be found relaxing in forests near bodies of water and mud. They use their short trunks to grab ahold of food, with fresh fruits among their favorites.

TAPIRS in Panama
Photo Credit: Charles J Sharp 

WHALE SHARKS

Whale sharks are the largest fish species in the world. With a lifespan of up to 70 years, whale sharks are known for their large mouths, which are used to filter-feed on small fish and plankton. Coiba National Park is one of the few places where visitors can catch a glimpse or have a chance to swim with these gentle giants during their peak season (June through September).  –Anika Chaturvedi

WHALE SHARKS in Panama
Photo Credit: MarAlliance2018

BIO: Anika Chaturvedi is a Journalism major at the University of Georgia, with a focus on environmental journalism. She’s passionate about traveling and exploring other cultures, listing England, India, and Switzerland among her favorite countries she’s visited. She currently writes for Green Global Travel and The Red & Black.