Anacondas live in wet areas such as swamps, marshes and streams mainly within tropical rainforests like the Amazon. They are agile in the water, and because they have eyes on top of their heads, they can watch unseen for prey. Famous for swallowing their prey whole, anacondas eat many types of animals, such as wild pigs, turtles and even jaguars and caiman. The name "anaconda" refers to the large, common anaconda, but several species of anaconda live in the Amazon.
The howler monkey uses its loud call to warn other animals to stay out of its territory. It eats mainly fruit, and lives in groups of 10 to 30 howler monkeys, which include both males and females. The largest monkey in the Americas, it also produces one of the loudest calls, which can be heard for up to three miles.
The jaguar lives in the rainforests of Central and South America, although it used to live as far north as the southwestern United States. They remain the largest cat in the Americas, and the third largest in the world. They can grow to more than 300 lbs. and eight feet long (including the tail), and can swim and climb well. As a charismatic symbol of the rainforest, they inspire people to protect the vast tracts of land they need for survival.
Poison Dart Frog
Famous for its unusual appearance, the poison dart frog emits a poison from its skin that can paralyze, and sometimes kill, its predators. Its bright coloration, rather than camouflaging it, warn predators to stay away. The different species of poison dart frog bear many colors, such as gold, copper, green, blue and red, and many are extremely attentive to their young. Some species even carry their eggs and tadpoles on their backs.
Sloths have long arms for climbing trees, and long fur. They live in the rainforest canopy and eat mainly leaves and fruits. Known for sleeping a lot (up to 20 hours a day) and being sluggish, sloths are so slow-moving that algae sometimes grows on their coats. If attacked, however, they fight fiercely. Two main species of sloths exist: two-toed and three-toed sloths.
The scarlet macaw has a high level of intelligence and has a long lifespan, sometimes living 60 years or more. Scarlet macaw populations have been devastated by poaching, fueled by the demand for keeping exotic birds as pets. Other factors, such as degradation of their environments, has threatened these birds as well, as Bruce Barcott discusses in his book, Last Flight of the Scarlet Macaw. Conservation organizations are working to help this species thrive, and it remains a spectacular sight in the Amazon rainforest.
Spider monkeys have long arms and tails that grip tree branches, helping them to climb. Thus, they can move dexterously, like spiders, through the canopy. They live in groups of two or three dozen spider monkeys, sleeping and eating in smaller groups. They often communicate vocally through many calls, which often tend to be noisy. Indigenous societies often hunt them for food.
Best known for its large beak and bright colors, the toucan lives in small flocks that communicate noisily to each other. Its long bill helps it to forage for fruit and insects. Indigenous cultures of the Amazon rainforest often view the toucan as a messenger between our world and the world of the spirits.
Amazon River Dolphin
Dolphins, otters and many other animals live in the rivers of the Amazon rainforest. The Amazon river dolphin, often known as the pink dolphin, is the largest and most common river dolphin on the planet. It eats fish, occasionally feeding on shellfish or turtles as well.
The black caiman grows to 4 m long, not unlike other similar reptilian species. It lives in the fresh water of the Amazon River, eating a variety of Amazon animals such as fish, other reptiles and mammals. The nocturnal predator is the largest animal in the family Alligatoridae.
Golden Lion Tamarin
The small golden lion tamarin lives in the trees of the Amazon rainforest. The gold color of the monkey's coat and its thick mane account for the name. Ninety percent of the animal's range has been destroyed for cattle and other cash crops, so it is an endangered species.
As a four-foot-long, nearly two-feet-tall rodent, the capybara is a favorite prey for major predators of the Amazon rainforest, including jaguars and anacondas. Capybaras live in groups that are led by a dominant male. They can remain underwater for five minutes at a time. The rodents eat grasses and aquatic plants.
The omnivore piranhas often hunt in packs. They eat just about anything, from plants to flesh, using their sharp razor-like teeth. Piranhas are only found in the Amazon basin area. Several varieties of the fish exist, but the exact number is unknown. They range from six to 18 inches in size.
Preparing for Amazon Rainforest Travel
If you are planning to visit Brazil or another part of South America, your adventures may include a variety of Amazon River activities that will provide you with an opportunity to see some of these animals in person. Before your trip, it's a good idea to learn about the region, study an Amazon rainforest survival guide and take other steps to ensure that you are informed about and properly prepared for the unique challenges of visiting this incredibly beautiful part of the world. (Pictured below: Small village in the Amazon rain forest on the shore of the Yanayacu River in Peru)