The Amazonian region is home to 1 in 10 known species on the planet. There are 4,100 miles of wondering rivers in the 2.6 million square miles area. Over 30 million people live there but we all depend on it to stabilize the global climate.
An Amazon jungle cruise and tour is the trip of a lifetime. Learn more about 7 exotic and unique Amazon rainforest animals you can expect to see on a jungle cruise.
Amazon Rainforest Animals
An Amazonian adventure is one of the great vacation experiences. The Amazon rainforest has incredible biodiversity with new species being discovered every year. The area is huge so it’s hardly surprising that what species you see will depend on which area of the Amazon basin you are exploring.
There are Amazon cruises in Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, and Bolivia. Each has its distinctive character. Read more about the options.
Some species will only be seen within a small area. Others are seen in all areas.
1. Pink River Dolphin
There are three species of river dolphin in the Amazon. Unlike the more well-known ocean dolphins, these dolphins live in the freshwater environments of the Amazon and Orinoco river basins.
These distinctive pink colored dolphins are the largest river dolphins in the world. At up to 350 pounds in weight, they are a big mammal.
Locals believe that they have supernatural powers and so were not hunted. Despite this, their numbers are diminishing due to pressure on their habitat by irrigation and hydroelectric projects. If you see them, they will be in small groups or on their own.
2. Squirrel Monkeys
If you spend any time in the Amazon rainforest you will see monkeys. Amongst the most common will be squirrel monkeys.
A really big group could be as big as 300 monkeys. More likely, you’ll see smaller groups of up to 70 up in the tree canopy. Occasionally, a squirrel monkey will descend to the ground searching for a tasty titbit.
They can be identified by their black lips, white ears and the white circles around their eyes. Listen out for the shriek of their danger call. Look out for their tails hanging from the trees attached to a 10-inch body.
3. Black Caiman
The Black Caiman is at the top of the food chain in the rivers of the Amazon. It’s a powerful predator eating capybaras, large river fish, and even birds.
At up to 20 feet long they are an exciting river cruise sighting.
Look out for their scaly, black skin as they rest on the shore. Their habit is to hunt nocturnally when they silently approach their prey, superbly camouflaged in the blackness of the night river. Once they have their prey held in their powerful jaws they haul it under the surface of the water to drown it.
The black caiman is plentiful and fortunately not at risk of extinction, unlike many other rainforest species. If you see one, don’t think that you’re safe just because it’s daytime. They have been known to eat humans.
4. Brown-Throated Sloth
There are several species of three-toed sloth. The brown-throated sloth is the commonest. They are a native of the Peruvian forest.
Because of their habit of moving slowly, once they are located in the treetops, they will let you have a good, long look through binoculars and even give you plenty of time to get a good photograph.
They are about the size of a cat. They are a brown-green color. The green is the result of algae that grows on their fur.
They can swim but most likely seen hanging upside down by their long horny claws. They only come down to the ground to defecate every 7 days or so.
5. Green Anaconda
Snakes may not be the most attractive or glamorous of animals but the green anaconda deserves your interest. They are the heaviest snakes on the planet with some individuals weighing 215 pounds. At up to 17 feet in length, they are impressive animals.
They thrive in marshy environments by the rivers and lakes. They kill their prey by constriction, squeezing the life out of them. They then swallow their victim, whole.
In April and May, they breed. You may even see the “breeding balls” when multiple males compete to mate with one female.
There are many species of macaw. They tend to share the characteristic bright plumage.
This large parrot is endangered by illegal capture and trade. They make attractive pets because of their intelligence, sociability and beautiful plumage. They can live long lives, some surviving in captivity into their 70’s.
Look out for the blue and gold macaw with a distinctive yellow front and bright blue wings and tail. Their white face and black beak together with their antics make them seem comical.
Listen for their screeching calls in the jungle as you pass by. The flocks of macaws can be as large as 100 birds. They eat seeds, fruit, nuts, and even flowers.
In the evening they roost in trees. It can be a good time to watch them flying.
The Hollywood image of the piranha is of a voracious hunter, attacking prey in large schools of frenzied, biting fish. They are sometimes depicted taking advantage of unsuspecting humans who have foolishly strayed into river shallows.
These predators are much more likely to scavenge for other fish, invertebrates and even plants. The phenomenon of the feeding frenzy does occur but the victim is more likely to be another fish.
The Brazilian Amazon is the home of the red-bellied piranha. It is grey above with silver sparkles, and the red underside is hidden below.
At up to 13-inches long with threatening teeth, it is quite an impressive animal. It is probably best not to tempt this aggressive fish by splashing about in river shallows near their regular haunts. You may find that you tempt them to emulate their Hollywood reputation.
Tourism and the Amazon
Eco-tourism may make an important contribution to the preservation of endangered species.
The Amazon is under threat by habitat damaging exploitation such as agriculture, resource extraction, and climate change. These amazing Amazon rainforest animals will only be there to enjoy in their environment if steps are taken to protect their habitat.
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