Panama ’s national parks are filled with animals that thrill foreign visitors, though many are hard to spot. There are five species of big cats on the isthmus—jaguars, jaguarundis, pumas, margays, and ocelots—but finding one in the wild is exceedingly hard. The forests harbor every species of nonhuman primate found in Central America: western night monkeys, mantled howler monkeys, white-faced capuchins, several types of spider monkeys, and Geoffroy’s tamarins.
Howlers are generally the easiest to spot (or at least hear) in the wild, but a few years ago a wildlife rescue project introduced four species of primates to islands in Lago Gatún , where the night monkey still occurs naturally. It’s easy to spot several species during a boat tour of the lake.
Many visitors find white-nosed coatis (a.k.a. coatimundis) and kinkajous, with their long tails and furry bodies, terribly cute. They’re reasonably easy to find, especially around Gamboa .
Capybaras are the world’s largest rodents, but they more closely resemble giant guinea pigs than rats. They can grow up to a meter long and weigh up to 45 kilograms. They’re shy, but they’re pretty easy to spot in Gamboa  and Punta Patiño .
Far smaller but equally cute are Central American agoutis, known locally as ñeques. They’re generally less than half a meter long and weigh just 3–4 kilograms. They’re covered in fur and have a rather large rump. They’re among the easiest mammals to spot in Panama; they’re diurnal and found just about anywhere there’s forest.
Agoutis are sometimes confused with pacas because of the latter’s scientific name, Agouti paca. But pacas are quite a bit larger, and their brown fur is marked with rows of white spots, giving rise to their local name, conejo pintado (painted rabbit).
Small red brocket and white-tailed deer are common. Isla San José is the only place in Central America where gray brockets are found. Other notable land mammals include giant anteaters, white-lipped and collared peccaries, two- and three-toed sloths, and Baird’s tapirs, the largest land mammal in Central America. The last can weigh up to 300 kilograms and are rather odd-looking creatures with a trunklike nose.