Technology Put To Good Use

A Wounaan forest technician inspects an illegal clearcut in Indigenous territory. CULLEN HEATER

Jim O’Donnell and Cullen Heater tell an essentially hopeful story from our neighbor to the south:

Panama’s Indigenous Groups Wage High-Tech Fight for Their Lands

With help from U.S. organizations, Panama’s Indigenous people are using satellite images and other technologies to identify illegal logging and incursions by ranchers on their territory. But spotting the violations is the easy part — getting the government to act is far harder.

On a blazing February morning, the Indigenous Wounaan territorial monitoring coordinator, two forest technicians, and a local farmer climbed into the mountains outside the fishing and farming community of Majé, near Panama’s Pacific coast. Continue reading

Boquete and Barú


The first waterfall on the Lost Waterfalls Trail

During Easter weekend, I took an eight-hour bus ride from San José, Costa Rica to David, Panama, and then a 45- to 60-minute bus ride from David to Boquete, a mountain town in the foothills of Barú, Panama’s only volcano and the country’s highest peak at 3,474 meters above sea level. Barú Volcano National Park is adjacent to the international park that Costa Rica and Panama share, called La Amistad (The Friendship), though it is far smaller than La Amistad, at around 14,000 hectares compared with 207,000. I was joined on the four-day weekend trip by my friend and coworker, Jocelyn, who had never been to Panama before, and we enjoyed hiking the conservation areas above the town of Boquete, admiring the many waterfalls in the region and also looking for the high-elevation bird species native to the cloud forest, many of which are endemic to Costa Rica and western Panama, as I wrote in my previous volcano-related post.



In addition to the national park, which charges $5 for entrance and has two main trails (one to the peak of the volcano, which takes about five hours to ascend, and one across the forest and part of the mountain ride, called Sendero Los Quetzales), there are some private forest reserves that charge a small admission fee. One is called the Lost Waterfalls Trail, which features three cascades and costs $7; another is called the Pipeline Trail, which follows a series of water tubes to the source and costs $3.

Continue reading