The Mamoní Valley

The Mamoní Valley is a magical site stretching along the Continental Divide, home to thousands of species of plants and animals that we protect to preserve the planet’s biodiversity and stabilize the climate, while establishing good relations with the communities around us.

The Mamoní Valley is a 29,000-acre upper Rio Mamoní watershed. Surrounded by Chagres National Park, the Embera Ejua So territory, the Gunayala indigenous territory, and Panama City; it really is a magical site stretching along the Continental Divide. Its strategic connection, at the narrowest point in the Americas, is crucial for maintaining the connectivity of 5 million acres of contiguous forests in the Tumbes-Choco-Magdalena biodiversity hotspot.

The wild life found in the Mamoní Valley is a big deal.  The Valley contains 1,500 hectares (3,900 acres) of old-growth forest. At Centro Mamoní, MVP partners’ science and research center in the Valley, visiting scientists carry out exciting projects—from reintroducing endangered species to protecting jaguars. MVP and its partners CREA and Geoversity, maintain inventories of plant and animal species observed in the Valley.

The Mamoní Valley is home to many threatened and endangered species that have been poorly documented, making our focus on research so important.  A 2020 study of endangered amphibians and reptiles of the Valley listed 13 vulnerable to critically endangered species that are known or highly likely to be present.  Researchers identified another dozen within that threatened range that probably exist in the Reserve.


In the 1960s and ‘70s, Panama’s economy began to expand eastward towards the Darien, which resulted in massive land clearing. This eastward migration was further supported by governmental policies to help fund the expansion of cattle raising and the agricultural frontier into, then uninhabited areas.

The Upper Mamoní Valley is still a sparsely populated mountainous region consisting of four villages: San José de Mandrono, El Valle, La Zahina, and Mamoni Arriba (listed east to west), that house a total population of an estimated 500 people. Enough to support three small rural schools and a health center.

All of which are located along the Mamoní River and its major tributary, the San José. Smaller ranching outposts are interspersed throughout the Valley along a dirt road that runs by the river connecting the four villages.