Photo: Eduardo Gonzalez
Henri Pittier National Park was declared as the first national park in Venezuela in 1937. It is located between Aragua and Carabobo States and is the largest national park of the Cordillera de la Costa (Coastal Mountain Range) region. There are several distinct habitats along the park's elevation gradient, which ranges from sea level to 2,346 meters above sea level (masl).The park’s cloud forests and coastal region are a great attraction for tourists and scientists. The Henri Pittier National Park constitutes an important water source for surrounding towns, and it is also where one of the best cacaos in the world is cultivated.
Henry Pittier National Park has a vast biological diversity. It pertains to the so called “hotspot” of the tropical Andes. The most studied plant community is the cloud forest, where up to 150 different species of trees have been reported in an area of 0.25 ha. Of these, the “niño,” or “cucharón” (Gyranthera caribensis), is the most representative species. Also, over 140 species of mammals, 580 birds, 97 reptiles and 38 amphibians have been reported, and the number of insect species is estimated to be over one million. The threatened animal species include birds, such as the plain-flanked rail (Rallus wetmorei), the yellow-faced siskin (Carduelis yarrellii) and the red siskin (Carduelis cucullatta), mammals, such as the white-bellied or long-haired spider monkey (Ateles belzebuth hybridus), the bush dog (Speothos venaticus) and the tapir (Tapirus terrestris), as well as the American crocodile (Crocodylus Acutus), the Veragua stubfoot toad (Atelopus cruciger) and the Hercules beetle (Dynastes hercules). Several species of birds and mammals are symbolic of the park: the trogon (Trogon sp.), the handsome fruiteater (Pipreola formosa), the harpy eagle (Harpia harpyja), the puma (Puma concolor), the jaguar (Panthera onca), and the red howler monkey (Allouatta seniculus).
After its second evaluation, the Henri Pittier National Park is still considered to be threatened. The degree of damage could increase if measures are not rapidly taken to control forest fires and human encroachment. Hunting and pollution are secondary threats, while the lack of personnel, infrastructure maintenance, and means of transportation and communication make adequate management of the park a difficult task.