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Global Ideas

Young mangrove defenders fight to save Panama's wetlands

Panama has lost over half of its mangroves to development and the tanning industry. But now a group of school children have taken up the cause of defending these important forests.

Watch video 07:27

Kids save the mangroves in Panama

Project goal: Protection and management of mangrove forests in Panama's Chiriquí province, through increased participation of the locals and raising awareness for the ecological value of mangroves
Project size: 13,800 hectares of mangrove forest - roughly the equivalent of 14,000 soccer pitches
Project partners: Wetlands International, UNDP, Conservation International, Panamanian Ministry of Environment (MiAmbiente)
Funding: 2,468,320 euro through the International Climate Initiative (IKI)
Biodiversity: Panama's mangroves provide a protected area for many plant and animal species, including 128 types of bird, many types of fish, crustaceans and amphibians as well as 10 varieties of bat.

Panama's mangroves play a key role in fighting global warming. They absorb and store billions of tons of CO2 and protect against coastal erosion and storm surges. But they are under threat. Since the 1970s, Panama has lost 55 percent of its mangrove forests. Thousands of hectares have been cut down to make way for apartment blocks and grazing pastures. And so-called "cascareros" - people who specialize in debarking red mangroves for the tanning industry - have also destroyed millions of trees. But, with international help, Panama is turning the tide. Its environment ministry is designing new conservation rules and working with local inhabitants to preserve the mangroves. One part of the project involves a group of school children who call themselves young mangrove defenders.

A film by Christopher Springate

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