Nicaragua’s Ramsar Sites – Part One

Named after the city that hosted its inaugural meeting in 1971 (Ramsar, Iran), the Ramsar Convention is defined as “an intergovernmental treaty that embodies the commitments of its member countries to maintain the ecological character of their Wetlands of International Importance”. It also focuses on the sustainable use of all wetlands in their territories regardless of whether they have been identified as having “international importance” or not. In Nicaragua, nine Ramsar Sites have been identified and accredited, covering an area of 406,852 hectares. The following is a brief summary of these areas that nature lovers may want to include in their itinerary when visiting Nicaragua.

The Lago de Apanás-Asturias is an artificial lake in the northern mountainous area of the country, caused by using the Río Tuma to generate electricity. The area experiences seasonal flooding and uses canals for transport, as well as for drainage. These wetlands are home to the Plata Otter (Lutra longicaudis), known locally as the Perro de Agua, or ‘water dog’, which is considered to be endangered, although the IUCN has listed its status as being ‘data deficient’, meaning that there is insufficient data on the animal to determine whether it is endangered or not. The area is also home to many water birds, some of which are migratory. People living in the area use traditional fishing methods, which are considered to be sustainable.

Following the course of the San Juan River, from Lake Nicaragua along the border between Nicaragua and Costa Rica to the coastal city of San Juan del Norte, Refugio de Vida Silvestre Río San Juan is a biosphere reserve and wildlife refuge. Including part of the Biosphere Reserve Indio Maiz, this area consists of a variety of types of wetlands – coastal freshwater lagoon, intertidal marsh, estuary, lakes, rivers and pools. Four species of vulnerable turtles and manatees are among the creatures that find refuge here.

The Cayos Miskitos Reserve boasts one of the largest areas of sea grass in the Caribbean region, along with impressive coral reefs, providing habitats for the Caribbean manatee, green turtle, hawksbill turtle and caiman crocodile. The area also includes a number of wetland types, such as riverine systems, estuaries and mangrove forests.

Part 2 of Nicaragua’s Ramsar Sites to follow