This last weekend, I and two of my other herpetologically-inclined friends headed out to visit La MICA Biological Station in El Cope, just below the cloud forest. La MICA is unique in Panama for being an area rich in snake and salamander species. So rich, in fact, that we were able to see two salamanders (Bolitoglossa biseriata) during our stay there, despite the dry weather. We found the salamanders while assisting in a survey by Leslie Brinkman of salamander diversity, habitat preference and diet for her Master’s. There are two main genera of salamanders in Panama: Bolitoglossa and Oedipina. Both are lungless, but Bolitoglossids, like the ones that we found, are more arboreal than Oedipina. Both B. biseriata that we saw were perched on leaves above the forest floor.
The air in El Cope is noticeably cooler and drier than the air in Gamboa or Panama City, and the hills were gorgeous. All of the people in the community were very friendly, and we got home-cooked Panamanian cuisine from the lead guide at La MICA’s family. The cabin where we stayed was homey, if less luxurious than what I have become accustomed to in Gamboa. La MICA Biological Station is located off the road a ways next to a river, in some nice secondary forest that is bordered by farmland. The facilities are still fairly basic, with pit toilets and a primitive shower area, but it definitely would be quite usable for school groups and has the advantage of being in an area with beautiful forests, friendly people, and a great variety of birds, snakes, frogs and salamanders.
(Edit: The specific locality information for the salamanders was taken out in case of collectors wanting to take these salamanders. If you want to know where to go to see these amazing salamanders, I would suggest contacting La MICA and stating your interest in seeing the salamanders when you arrange a visit there.)