General information
Summary
Description
Threats
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Because the Henri Pittier National Park has a wide range of elevations, it has a vast biological diversity. It is located in the “hotspot” of the Tropical Andes, so called for its high amount of endemic species and the urgency of the efforts required for their preservation (Conservation International 2005).



            There is a great plant species diversity within the cloud forest

              
The "cucharón" or "niño" (Gyranthera caribensis), is a large tree and one of the park's flag species

Photos: Eduardo Gonzalez


The great diversity of flora gives the park a variety of habitats (Luy and Morales n/d). Here are some outstanding species of each of the plant communities:

•  Cloud Forest (800 - 2,436 meters above sea level (masl)): the niño, or cucharón, (Gyranthera caribensis), the cecropia tree (Cecropia sp.), the copey (Clusia multiflora), the guama or coffee shade tree (Inga sp.), the pupunha palm tree (Bactris sp.), and many types of ferns, mosses and epiphytic plants; The cloud forest surrounding the Rancho Grande Biological Station harbors 150 different species of trees in 0.25 ha (Huber 1986).

•  Deciduous and semi-deciduous forest (150 - 1,000 masl): the cotton-silk tree (Ceiba pentandra), the bucare (Eritrina poeppigiana), the araguaney (Tabebuia chrysantha), the fig tree (Ficus guianensis), the palomaria (Triplaris caracasana), the cecropia tree (Cecropia sp.), the tara amarilla (Oyedaea verbesinoides), many legumes and acacia trees (Acacia sp.).

•  Savanna (450 - 900 masl): mostly gramineae species, mainly invasive species (Melinis minutiflora, Hyparrhemia rufa, Panicum maximum), with small gallery forests

•  Thistles and thorn bushes (50 - 150 masl): cactus (Acanthocereus sp. and Cereus sp.), climbing plants, caper bush (Capparis sp.), the braceletwood (Jacquinia revoluta), the pinguin or wild pine (Bromelia pinguin) and the sea purslane (Sesuvium portulacastrum).

•  Mangroves (0 masl): mainly formed by the red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle).

With regard to the fauna of the protected area, 140 species of mammals have been recorded, representing 47% of the mammalian fauna in Venezuela. The majority of the species are bats, followed by rodents (18%) and carnivores (11%). Among the bat species, the lesser bulldog bat (Noctilio albiventris) and the greater bulldog bat (N. leporinus) (larger and even fishes in the sea) stand out, as well as the common vampire bat (Desmodus rotundus) and the hairy-legged vampire bat (Diphylla ecaudata) (Fernández-Badillo and Ulloa 1990). The more important species of rodents, due to their presence in different environments within the park, are the pocket mouse (Heteromys anomalus), the red-tailed squirrel (Sciurus granatensis), some bigger species such as the paca (Agouti paca) and the agouti (Dasyprocta leporina) and Pittier´s crab-eating rat (Ichthyomys pittieri) ,which is endemic to the area. All of the feline species of the country are found in the park under different levels of threat (Fernández-Badillo and Ulloa 1990, Rodríguez and Rojas-Suárez 1999). The larger ones, like the puma (Puma concolor) and the jaguar (Panthera onca), are internationally categorized as Almost Threatened (IUCN 2005). The howling monkey is quite common in these forests. Its presence can be detected by the loud howling of the males (Linares 1998). Other threatened species include: the tapir (Tapirus terrestris), the bush dog (Speothos venaticus) and the white-bellied or long-haired spider monkey (Ateles belzebuth hybridus) (República de Venezuela 1995, Rodríguez and Rojas-Suárez 1999).

        
          Red howler monkeys can be found within the dense forest

   

          "El Portachuelo" is an important stop-over area for migratory birds
                                     Photos: Eduardo Gonzalez

The main attraction for tourists and scientists are the 582 species of birds found in the park (Lentino and col. 2005), which is located in a region considered around the world as an endemic area for birds (BirdLife International 2003). This figure represents approximately 43% of the country’s bird fauna and 6% of the bird species in the world. There are 5.4 bird species per 10 Km2, one of the highest densities in the world (Lentino and Goodwin 1993). Through the Paso de Portachuelo, the park serves as a passage for approximately 79 species of migratory birds from the Northern hemisphere (SCAPNHP 2005). Among the common migratory species are the peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus), the yellow-billed cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus), the swallow species (Progne tapera, Riparia riparia and Hirundo rustica), as well as several species of plovers (Calidris sp., Charadrius sp., Pluvialis sp.) and flycatchers (Tyrannus sp., Contopus sp.), to name just a few examples from the different families (Lentino y Goodwin 1993).

Approximately 22 endemic bird species of this region make their home in Henri Pittier National Park. These include: the Northern helmeted curassow (Crax pauxi), the white-tipped Quetzal (Pharomachrus fulgidus), the groove-billed toucanet (Aulacorhynchus sulcatus), the handsome fruiteater (Pipreola formosa), the green-tailed emerald (Chlorostilbon alice) and the violet-chested hummingbird (Sternoclyta cyanopectus), among many others (Lentino and Goodwin 1993). Also found within the park are the harpy eagle (Harpia harpyja), classified worldwide as Almost Threatened, the military macaw (Ara militaris), considered Vulnerable, and other common, attractive species such as the collared trogon (Trogon collaris) and the long-tailed sylph (Aglaiocercus kingi) (IUCN 2005, Lentino y col. 2005).

Ninety-five species of reptiles and 38 of amphibians have been reported in the park. This represents 38% and 19%, respectively, of the reptile and amphibian species in the country (Manzanilla and col. 1995, Manzanilla and col. 1996). The American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus), found in Turiamo Bay, is classified as Vulnerable, and the population is under a recuperation program, . The three sea turtle species (Caretta caretta, Chelonia mydas and Eretmochelys imbricata) found on the park’s coast are Threatened, as is the endemic Veragua stubfoot toad (Atelopus cruciger) (Manzanilla and col. 1996, Rodríguez and Rojas-Suárez 1999). Three species of glass frogs (Centrolenidae Family) are present in the park, as well as the Pseudos paradoxa, whose tadpole is larger than the adult (Manzanilla and col. 1996).

The number of insect species in the park has been estimated at over one million. This figure is widely accepted, even though it has not been directly studied or quantified (Osuna 2000).  The following chart is a summary of the species that are in risk of extinction and their degree of threat, locally and worldwide:

Common name

Scientific
name

Local degree of threat

Global degree of threat

Jaguar

Pantera onca

Vulnerable

Almost threatened

Puma

Puma concolor

Minor risk 

Almost threatened

Tapir

Tapirus terrestris

Vulnerable

Vulnerable

Bush dog

Speothos venaticus

Vulnerable

Vulnerable

White-bellied or Long-haired spider monkey

 

Ateles belzebuth hybridus

 

Endangered

 

Vulnerable

Northern helmeted curassow

 

Crax pauxi

 

Endangered

 

Vulnerable

Harpy eagle

Harpia harpyja

Vulnerable

Almost threatened

Military macaw

Ara militaris

Vulnerable

Vulnerable

American crocodile

Crocodylus acutus

Endangered

Vulnerable

Loggerhead sea turtle

Caretta caretta

Vulnerable

Endangered

Tortuga blanca

Chelonia mydas

Endangered

Endangered

Hawksbill turtle

Eretmochelys imbricata

Endangered

Critically endangered

Source: Rodríguez and Rojas-Suárez (1999), IUCN (2005), BirdLife Internacional (2003)

 

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