Ciudad Blanca: The Secrets of the Honduran Rainforest

Ciudad Blanca: The Secrets of the Honduran Rainforest
The legendary ‘Land of the Monkey God’ has once again surprised the world at large with its secrets Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Findings at the mysterious Ciudad Blanca of Honduras enriches the biological diversity of the nation and adds new species to the list of flora and fauna

Uttara Gangopadhyay
June 10 , 2020
09 Min Read

The legendary ‘Land of the Monkey God’ in the central American nation of Honduras has once again surprised the world at large with its secrets. This little scanned rainforest, also referred to as the mysterious ‘White City’ (Ciudad Blanca), had yielded the remains of an ancient city in an expedition around 2012-13, where archaeologists discovered broad plazas, earthworks, mounds, and an earthen pyramid, all pointing to the existence of a flourishing settlement about a thousand years ago.

The legends, the expedition and the findings were later documented by American journalist and author Douglas Preston in his 2017 book titled ‘The Lost City of the Monkey God: A True Story’. According to Preston, explorers to the region in the 1930s were informed by the locals about this secret lost city in the middle of the dense jungle. But who lived here and why they leave remained a mystery.


Located in the easternmost corner of Honduras the dense tropical forest of La Mosquitia is said to be one of the largest rainforests in Central America. The area falls under the Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve, the largest protected area in Honduras and a Unesco World Heritage site.

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📸: @mario.galeas Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve, situated in the Mosquita region of northeast Honduras, comprises a belt of approximately 15km by 150km extending inland from the Caribbean coast in a southwesterly direction. #explore #exploringtheglobe #aroundtheworld #awesomenaturepix #photooftheday #travel #travelogotography #worldtraveler #planetdiscovery #photography #wanderlust #travelling #picoftheday #traveltheworld #landscape #adventure #trip #vacation #beautifuldestinations #traveladdict #instadaily #world #tourism #instratravel #travel_columnist #honduras #honduras🇭🇳 #rioplatanobiospherereserve #rioplatano

A post shared by Travel and Adventure (@travel_columnist) on May 29, 2020 at 10:02am PDT


And when a team of researchers from the Conservation International’s Rapid Assessment Program returned from Ciudad Blanca in 2017, the world was stunned by the findings of their biological survey. Not only did they come across an extremely rich presence of flora and fauna but also some species new to science and several which were thought to be extinct.

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Great Green Macaw, Ara ambiguus. The Great Green Macaw is listed as “Endangered” on the IUCN redlist, with an estimated 1,000-2,499 adult birds in the wild. They are found in a spotty distribution in Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama and in Columbia and Ecuador. If you are interested, check out the Macaw Recovery Network, an NGO in Costa Rica dedicated to the recovery of these large parrots. Nikon D850, Nikon 600mm f/4 FL, 1/1250 second @ f/4.0, ISO 2200. #birds_captures #best_birds_planet #birdlife #birdsonearth #birding_photography #best_birds_of_world #bird_photography #pocket_birds #bird_watchers_daily #birds_adored #bestbirdshots #bird_brilliance #your_best_birds #nuts_about_birds #best_birds_of_ig #nature_worldwide_birds #birdcaptures #birds_nature #birds_illite #macaws #macawsofinstagram #macawphotography #parrots #parrotsofinstagram #greatgreenmacaw #psittaworld #psittacidae #parrotsoftheworld #nanpapix #wpeditorschoice

A post shared by Corey (@cr_wildlife) on Dec 16, 2019 at 11:05am PST


According to the findings of Conservation International’s researchers, the biodiversity of Ciudad Blanca is exceptional in the context of Central America, with most taxonomic groups showing a richness of species not seen in other parts of Honduras. In fact some of the species found here, such as the white-lipped peccaries ( a pig-like mammal), are indicative of an intact healthy forest. The team not only found 22 species not known to have been existed in Honduras but also at least 43 species which have been a source of concern for conservationists elsewhere.

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White-lipped peccaries (Tayassu pecari) are frequent visitors of mineral licks. They usually spend a lot of time rolling in the mud, but there is always time for a short nap 😴 . Pic from our camera traps, thanks to the great @gabyvinuezah . #peccary #mammals #whitelippedpeccary #cameratrap #tayassu #rainforest #nature #saltlick #nap #conservation #amazonia #reconyx #mammalwatching #animallovers #wildlife #ecuador

A post shared by Diego Mosquera (@dimosb) on Feb 25, 2020 at 7:44pm PST


Endangered plants (Reinhardtia gracilis (a variety of palm) and Adiantum pulverulentum (a variety of fern) are two of the endangered plants found here. The endangered Great Green Macaw and abundant populations of the endangered Geoffroy’s Spider Monkey and Baird’s Tapir have also been found. Researchers were delighted to rediscover the presence of the Pale-faced Bat Phylloderma stenops which had not been reported for Honduras for more than 75 years, the False Tree Coral Snake Rhinobothryum bovallii which had not been reported for Honduras for more than 50 years, and the tiger beetle Odontochila nicaraguense (only ever been recorded in Nicaragua), which was believed to be extinct throughout its range. One of the most interesting feature is the presence of the five of the cat species occurring in the region (jaguar, puma, ocelot, margay and jagaroundi). In fact, the researchers named a study area as the Ciudad del Jaguar (City of the Jaguar).

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One of the most unique adventure that you can do while visiting Honduras is the rafting expedition in the BIOSPHERE OF RIO PLÁTANO, the most pristine and untouched area in this beautiful country...10 or 5 days in the jungle, camping seeking for the mayan hidden city of MONKEY GOD and unique wild life such as toucans, monkeys, parrots, rare butterflies, ocelots, Jaguar....and more. Do you want to be like Indiana Jones? Ask me how [email protected] #wonderlandoriginaltravels #discoverhonduras #moskitia #expedition #rioplatano #rioplatanobiospherereserve #hondurasisgreat🇭🇳ðŸÂÂÂŒÂÂÂŽ #ilovehonduras #travelagentonline #adrenaline #adventure

A post shared by Wonderland Original Travels (@saragara78) on Aug 21, 2019 at 3:00pm PDT

Although travelling through the dense forest is difficult – researchers had to be flown to and fro in helicopters – latest reports suggest that this pristine archaeological and biological reserve needs immediate protection. The study has revealed encroachment by illegal cattle ranching and agriculture as well as illegal logging and hunting, allegedly driven by drug trafficking.


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