The location of this unique site in Central America, where Quaternary glaciers have left their mark, has allowed the fauna and flora of North and South America to interbreed. Tropical rainforests cover most of the area. Four different Indian tribes inhabit this property, which benefits from close co-operation between Costa Rica and Panama.
The park lies in the foothills and mountains of Cordillera de Talamanca between the mountain ranges of Las Vueltas, Cartago and Echandi on the Panamanian/Costa Rican border.
The Cordillera de Talamanca is the highest and wildest non-volcanic mountain range in Central America. It was formed by the folding of the Earth's crust and uplifting activity that created the land dividing the Pacific from the Caribbean. A long period of marine deposition in the shallow surrounding seas up until the Middle Miocene was followed by a period of marine volcanism, which included the uplifting of the whole area to some 4,000 m above sea level. Subsequent erosion due to heavy rainfall has created a rugged topography. During the Quaternary period, glaciers carved cirque lakes and steep valleys on the slopes of Chirripo National Park, the only area in Central America to show signs of glaciation.
Tropical rainforests have covered most of the area since at least the last glaciations, about 25,000 years ago. The park includes lowland tropical rainforest and cloudforest, as well as four communities not found elsewhere in Central America: subalpine paramo forests, pure oak stands, lakes of glacial origin and high-altitude bogs. The area also contains all five altitudinal zones found in the tropics. Most of the main crest lies within montane rainforest, characterized by mixed oak forest. Below 2,500 m lower montane rainforest occurs and the forest is generally more mixed. The Talamanca Mountains contain the largest tracts of virgin forest in Costa Rica. On high points along the ridge, at elevations above 2,900-3,100 m, frequent stands of paramo, swamps, cold marshes occur. The paramo located on Mount Kamuk contains the richest and most varied vegetation (after Chirripo) in the entire Talamanca Range and is the only one in Costa Rica that shows no signs of human intervention. Species diversity is perhaps unequalled in any other reserve of equivalent size in the world, due to the convergence of the floras of North and South America and varied climatic and edaphic (soil-related) factors.
The fauna is extremely diverse, with intermigrations from both North and South America. Signs of tapir, a species as yet unrecorded in Costa Rica, are abundant at Cerros Utyum, Kamuk and Fabrega near the Panamanian border. All Central American felines are found including puma, ocelot, jaguarundi, tiger cat and jaguar, as well as the Central American squirrel monkey and Geoffroy's spider monkey. A green and black high-altitude viper, that has rarely been seen or collected, is present. Resplendent quetzal is present in the park as are many other bird species, such as bare-necked umbrella bird, three-wattled bellbird, harpy eagle, crested eagle, solitary eagle and orange-breasted falcon. It has been suggested that no other park is the world possesses as many species and such a wealth of fauna.
Archaeological sites are reported along all major watercourses, yet an almost total lack of archaeological investigation within the area makes objective analysis of the human history difficult. Less than 50 km away, near Baru Volcano in Chiriquo Panama, pre-ceramic sites have been discovered dating back more than 12,000 years. Such sites are extremely rare in Central America, but this discovery just a short distance away indicates the possibility of more finds of Central America's earliest human inhabitants in the area. Studies on the Pacific Slope of Costa Rica just a few kilometres from La Amistad-Talamanca International Park have revealed much about the area's pre-Columbian inhabitants. Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC
The Presidents of Costa Rica and Panama jointly declared intent to establish an international park on 3 March 1979, and this was reconfirmed in Costa Rica by Presidential Decree of 4 February 1982. The Costa Rican portion was accepted as a biosphere reserve in 1982. Declared a World Heritage site in 1983. The Reserva Forestal de Rio Macho extension to the reserve was approved by the MAB Bureau on 27 January 1988. La Amistad International Park was inscribed on the World Heritage List in December 1990.
The Presidents of Costa Rica and Panama jointly declared intent to establish an international park, La Amistad, on 3 March 1979, and this was finally reconfirmed in Panama by the directive of 6 September 1988 (Resolucion Directive No. 021-88). This resolution has the power of the executive decree based on Law No. 21 of 16 December 1986. The sector called Pila was initially protected in 1983 by the executive decree No. 25 of 28 September 1983. Palo Seco Protected Forest was established following pUblication in the official gazette on the 24 November 1983. Volcan Baru National Park was established by Executive Decree No. 40 of 24 June 1976 and published in the official gazette on 13 July 1978. The Costa Rican sector was declared a World Heritage Site (criteria: i, ii, iii) in 1983. Inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1990. Source: Advisory Body Evaluation