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La Tigra National Park

La Tigra, located just 11 km from the Honduran capital Tegucigalpa, is the oldest national park in Honduras. It has been declared forest reserve in 1958 and national park in 1980. With an extension of 329 km≤ it is the largest of the few remaining natural areas around Tegucigalpa and therefore referred to as ĎThe Lungs of the Cityí. On the lower parts of the mountains the vegetation consist of conifers, around 1,500 m the cloud forest begins. The most outstanding mammals in the park are the felines, represented by Jaguar, Ocelot and the Margay Cat. La Tigra has two entrances and visitor centres: El Rosario, where the best facilities are found, and Jutiapa. In total, there are six well-maintained trails varying in length from one to five hour hikes.


Location

La Tigra is situated approximately 30 km northeast from the Honduran capital Tegucigalpa. The park includes pine and cloud forest, numerous rivers and waterfalls, and a large and varied population of mammals. With more than 200 bird species it is one of the countryís best bird-watching spots.


 

Size and Foundation

With a total extension of about 329 km≤ it is the largest of the few remaining natural areas around Tegucigalpa and itís referred to as ĎThe Lungs of the Cityí. Itís the oldest of Hondurasí national parks being declared from a former forest reserve (since 1958) in 1980. La Tigra stands for the female jaguar commonly called commonly La Tigra all over Central America.


 

Natural environment and Importance

On the lower parts of the mountains of La Tigra the vegetation consist of conifers (pine forests). Around 1,500 m the cloud forest begins. Cloud forests are mountainous broad leaf forests found from 1,500 m to 2,500 m above sea level, depending on the local topography. The clouds are the product of the high altitude and the resulting cooler temperatures of the mountains. This builds a natural barrier for the hot and humid Caribbean air that is forced to climb the mountains. It cools down and condenses. The result is clouds, constant fog and drizzle.

La Tigra is of outstanding importance for the capital city Tegucigalpa providing some 40% of its drinking water. Cloud forests are water reservoirs. The vegetation collects the water from the air. When saturated, the water drips from trunks or leaf tips to the ground. The ground is spongy and protected by the vegetation from soil erosion. The water is collected in lower and rocky parts of the ground. This water reservoir guaranties a constant water supply to the Tegucigalpa area even in the dry season.

One of the most remarkable species in La Tigra is the cypress, an evergreen species that stands out for its unique broad leaves. It is found mostly in South America and reaches its northern range limits here in Honduras. Also noticeable is the presence of such trees as aguacatillo, one of the Quetzalís main food sources, mountain oak, gorila, liquidambar, pine tree, shrubs such as Rodolentia nebulosa, and ferns such as Pteridium aquilinum and Alsophila salvinii. The latter being an endangered specie. Cloud forests do not have as high biodiversity as rainforests, but they are home to many endemic species making cloud forest reserves of high importance for many species survival.


 

Wildlife

Reptiles form the group with the smallest number of species in La Tigra. There are three amphibian and thirteen reptile species, two of which are rare and two poisonous (Central American coral snake and Bothrops godmani). Outstanding species within this group are the showy green lizard, thought by locals to be poisonous, and the rare earthworm snake. The second largest group is mammals, with 31 species, six of which are endangered, two threatened, and two are considered rare. The most outstanding of the mammals are the felines, represented by the Jaguar, Ocelot and the Margay Cat. Peccaries, Bairdís Tapir, Agoutis, Coatis, and Armadillos are a few more of the mammals found in La Tigra.

The bird group has the largest number of species. The park has a total of 39 families with more than 200 species, 42 of which are only found in the cloud forest and 27 migratory species. Some of them are endangered or threatened, as in the case of great curassow and trogon family, which includes the Resplendent Quetzal, the mystic and famous bird of the Mayas and Aztecs. Visitors interested in viewing the Quetzal will have better luck in the reproductive season between March and May. Normally completely hidden in the dense vegetation of the cloud forest, during this time the males are very active and call a lot as they are trying to attract a female.


 

Activities

La Tigra has a good trail system. There are six trails. Four can be accessed from the Jutiapa Visitorís Centre and two from the El Rosario Visitors Centre. These trails have lookout spots, rest areas, and picnic areas. Trails vary in length from one hour to 4 or 5 hour hikes. In addition to these six trails there is an access road. That joins the visitorís centres at Jutiapa and El Rosario, to hike this takes a good 3 hours.


 

Accommodation / Visiting times

La Tigra has two entrances and visitor centres. The best facilities are found at the El Rosario entrance. Here is a visitorís centre, with maps and area information. In the old mine hospital you will find a lodge with eight rooms with private bathroom. A cafeteria can be opened on request of groups. Camping is also possible, with use of bathroom facilities of the lodge. The other entrance Jutiapa, provides a visitors centre where you can camp, if you have your own camping gear. There are bathroom facilities also at Jutiapa.