General information
Summary
Description
Threats
Recommended solutions
Conclusions
References

 

 

 

Guatopo's flora and fauna are very diverse and have Caribbean, Andean, and even Amazonian influences. A total of 102 floral families have been reported in the park, including more than 400 plant species (Segovia and col. 1996, Yerena 1985). Biogeographic evidence suggests that the area should have been a "Pleistocene refuge" during the glacial periods, which resulted in autochthonous flora represented by at least 41 endemic species, including the Asterogyne spicata, known locally as palmito (Steyermark 1979). There are many keystone fauna species or species of conservation interest, including the jaguar (Panthera onca), tapir (Tapirus terrestris), harpy eagle (Harpia harpyja), and white-bellied (long-haired) spider monkey (Ateles belzebuth hybridus) (Yerena 1985, De Sola and col. 1996).

 

Abundant precipitation favors evergreen forests above 800 m. These forests are dense and the trees grow very tall--20 to 30 m--and have a well-developed understory. There are many palms and tree ferns as well as an elevated number of epiphytes, vines, and climbers (MARN 1992, Yerena 1985).

 

The "mulato" tree (Pentaclethra filamentosa) is one of the dominant species because of its abundance and appearance; it has yellow flowers for most of the year. Other typical trees include Inga sp., Platymiscium sp., Pouteria sp., Ficus glabrata, Drypetes sp., and Pterocarpus officinalis. One small-stature tree (easily confused with a shrub) is the mountain rose (Brownea sp.), with red flowers, and the white mountain rose (B. leucantha). There is a high proliferation of lianas (woody vines), including the water vine (Vitis caribeae). The palms are another important aspect of Guatopo's forests. Some form part of the forest's upper layer such as Jessenia batava; in the middle and lower layers, palms such as Euterpe sp., Bactris sp., and Asterogyne spicata are found; in the understory, common species include Geonoma sp. and Cyclanthus bipartitus. Finally, at the summits and along the mountain ridges, the typical cloud forest palm Dyctiocarium sp. is found (Yerena 1985).

 

Other characteristic plants include tree ferns (Cyathea sp.), and many epiphytes like bromeliads, moss, and lichens. Secondary forests exist in areas that were subjected to agricultural activities in the past; typical vegetation in the secondary forests include Cecropia peltata, Guazuma ulmifolia, and Ochroma lagopus (Silva and col. 1993).

 

Under 800 m, submontane semideciduous seasonal rainforests grow. They are less dense and trees do not grow as tall (15 to 20 m). Common trees include those of striking appearance like the tiamo and mulato, and others that have showy flowers such as Erythrina sp., Triplaris sp., Tabebuia rosae, and Tabebuia crysantha. Other representative trees include Enterolobium cyclocarpum, Spondias sp., the gumbo-limbo tree (Bursera simaruba), Guazuma ulmifolia, mahogany (Swietenia sp.) and cedar (cedra amarga) (Cedrela sp.) (Yerena 1985).  The Cedrela odorata found in the park is a threatened species listed in Venezuela's Red Book of Flora  (Llamozas and col. 2003) and on IUCN's redlist (Americas Regional Workshop 1997). Smaller trees including Brownea sp. (which only grows to 13 m), and Lonchocarpus dipteroneureus stand out. A significant shrub includes the palm (Aiphanes sp.).

 

Terrestrial bromeliads and members of the Agavaceae family are significant in the understory as are lianas, and twisted vines like Bauhinia cumanenses, and even climbing orchids like Vanilla pompona. In the riparian forests, giant trees are found, such as Pithecelobium sp. (which  can grow up to 40 m high with a trunk more than 2 m in diameter) chilamate (Ficus glabrata) (between 20 and 30 m), the giant kapok trees (Ceiba pentandra), and sandbox tree (Hura crepitans) (Yerena 1985).

 

Endemic plant species reportedly found in Guatopo are: Justicia oxypages, Tococa perclara, Heliconia rodriguensis, Asterogyne spicata, Piper guatopoense, Borojoa universitatis, and Tresanthera thyrsiflora (Steyermark 1979).

 

There are many mammal species in Guatopo National Park. The most common are the weeper capuchin (Cebus nigrivitatus), red howler monkey (Alouatta seniculus), collared peccary (Tayassu tajacu), red brocket deer (Mazama americana), nine-banded armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus), tapir (Tapirus terrestris), rodents like the paca (Agouti paca) and agouti (Dasyprocta leporina), and felines such as jaguar (Panthera onca), puma (Puma concolor), ocelot (Leopardus pardalis), margay (Leopardus wiedii), and the jaguarundi (Herpailurus yagouaroundi) (Eisenberg and col. 1979, Yerena 1985).

 

There are several threatened mammal species inhabiting Guatopo, such as the giant armadillo (Priodontes maximus), white-bellied spider monkey (Ateles belzebuth hybridus), the little spotted cat (Leopardus tigrinus), the ocelot, margay, jaguar, and tapir (Rodríguez and Rojas-Suárez 1999). During our visit, we saw a tapir that was going to cross the highway close to the La Colonia Park Guard Station, as well as many opossums (Didelphis marsupialis) killed by vehicles along the highway.

 

The park's avifauna is very diverse. To date, there are 403 known species (Lentino and col. 1993), of which 36 are migratory. Notable, observable species include American swallow-tailed kite (Elanoides forficatus), roadside hawks (Buteo magnirostris), rufous-vented chachalaca (Ortalis ruficauda), military macaw (Ara militaris), squirrel cuckoo (Piaya cayana), rufous-breasted hermit (Glaucis hirsuta), groove-billed toucanet (Aulacorhynchus sulcatus), and the crested oropendola (Psarocolius decumanus). During our visit, flocks of swallow-tailed kite seemed to be everywhere, as were the lilac-tailed parrotlet (Touit batavica). In addition, there were many crested oropendola nests close to the dministrative office.

 

The park is also a habitat for species endemic to Venezuela's Cordillera de la Costa (BirdLife International 2003), including groove-billed toucanet, violet-chested hummingbird (Sternoclyta cyanopectus), Venezuelan bristle-tyrant (Phylloscartes venezuelanus), rufous-lored tyrannulet (Phylloscartes flaviventris), and the handsome fruiteater (Pipreola formosa). Threatened species in the park include the harpy eagle (Harpia harpyja), red siskin (Carduelis cucullatus), and military macaw (Ara militaris) (BirdLife International 2003, Rodríguez and Rojas-Suárez 1999).

 

Of the reptiles, the snakes stand out. Abundant, non-venomous species include the boa (Boa constrictor), lined keeled racer (Chironius carinatus and C. multiventris), mussurana (Cleia cleia), and the bird-eating snake (Pseustes poecilonotus). Venomous snakes include lancehead (Bothrops colombiensis), Lansberg's hog nose viper (Bothrops lansbergii) and the rattlesnake (Crotalus durissus) (Dixon 1980, Sociedad La Salle de Ciencias Naturales 1965). One interesting aspect is the report of spectacled caiman (Caiman crocodylus) in Taguaza and Cuira Rivers, where the Cnemidophorus lemniscatus is also abundant (Yerena 1985).

 

Among the amphibians, Guatopo has the frog Colostethus guatopensis, which lives in creeks with fast-moving water and which is considered endemic to Guatopo and the Bachiller Ridge (east of the park). Another species, C. herminae, which is basically terrestrial and found along trails and in standing water, is the most abundant in the understory (Dixon and Rivero-Blanco 1984).

 

A new spider species described in Guatopo is Schizomus yolandae. It is only found under fallen leaves and its distribution is only known for the park at altitudes of 1,200 m (González-Sponga 1997).

 

It is also important to note that diptera of the genus Phlebotomus exist in the park; they are vectors for the sickness called "leishmaniasis tegumentaria americana," which is caused by protozoa Leishmania brasiliensis that live in the insects' digestive track (Pifano and col. 1960).

 

The following table provides a summary of the park's threatened species and their national and international degree of threat.

 

Common name

Scientific name

Venezuela threatened status

Global threatened status

White-bellied spider monkey

Ateles belzebuth hybridus

Endangered

Critically endangered

Giant armadillo

Priodontes maximus

Endangered

Endangered

Little spotted cat

Leopardus tigrinus

Vulnerable

Near threatened

Ocelot

Leopardus pardalis

Vulnerable

Not reported

Margay

Leopardus wiedii

Vulnerable

Not reported

Jaguar

Panthera onca

Vulnerable

Almost threatened

Tapir

Tapirus terrestris

Vulnerable

Vulnerable

Military macaw

Ara militaris

Endangered

Vulnerable

Harpy eagle

Harpia harpyja

Vulnerable

Minor risk

Red siskin

Carduelis cucullatus

Critically endangered

Endangered

Venezuelan bristle-tyrant

Phylloscartes venezuelanus

Not enough information

Minor risk

Sources: BirdLife International (2003), Cat Specialist Group (2001), Defler, T.R. & Rodríguez-M, J.V. (2003), Downer, C. & Castellanos, A. (2001). Edentate Specialist Group (1996), Rodríguez y Rojas-Suárez (1999).

 

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