17 Animals That Live Only in the Amazon Rainforest
The mighty Amazon River and its surrounding rainforest is home to millions of different species of animals, with new ones being discovered regularly. Here are the ones you won't find anywhere else in the world.
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This large blue-green and yellow bird was thought to have become extinct in the 1980s, due to deforestation and poaching for the pet trade. But about 50 of the birds were found in Bolivia in 1992, according to the American Bird Conservancy. Blue-throated macaws like to nest in large trees, of which there are few remaining. So, the American Bird Conservancy and its Bolivian counterpart have been working to designate land to protect them and encourage them to use nest boxes. The macaws are adapting and it's estimated that the population is now around 450. Blue-throated macaws aren't the only endangered animals making a comeback.
This 10- to 12-inch tall bird lives in the rainforests of Colombia, Venezuela, and Brazil. They have a distinctive half-circle crest on their heads. The males are bright orange and the females are olive-gray. In his A Book of Rather Strange Animals, Caleb Compton describes the bird's "dance-off" mating ritual. Females watch as about 40 males put on an elaborate courtship display, hoping to receive a peck on the back from a female, the sign that she's chosen him. They're a cousin of the Andean cock-of-the-rock, the national bird of Peru, which is even more distinctive looking. They have a much larger crest on their heads.
Hoatzin are about 25 inches tall and fairly easy to spot because they have a wide range in the Amazon Basin's lakes and rivers. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology shares that, "The Hoatzin is such a bizarre and unique bird that it almost has to be seen to be believed." They're in the same league as the 12 other birds you can only see one place in the world.
A less-friendly water dweller is the black caiman. This immense alligator can grow 15 feet long, making it the Amazon Basin's largest predator. They kill their prey, which includes deer and tapirs, in a grisly way—first drowning it and then swallowing it whole. As hatchlings, the caiman is preyed on by birds, rodents, and other animals. The main threat to the black caiman adults is humans. We kill them for their meat and hide, cut down the trees supporting their food, and burn their swamplands.
Also swimming through the Amazon and its tributaries, lakes, and swamps is the arapaima fish. In Brazil, it's called a pirarucu and the name in Peru is paiche. This mega fish is one of the world's largest freshwater fish reaching lengths of 10 feet and weighing 40 pounds (the world's largest fish is the whale shark—one of the facts that you probably didn't know about whale sharks). These are air-breathing fish that breathe with a coughing noise. Because of this, they stay close to the water's surface which makes them all too easy to catch with a harpoon; the arapaima's main threat is overfishing.
Another fish unique to the Amazon is the carachama, a type of catfish. The fish's black and gray scales form a kind of armor protecting it from the other fish found in the Amazon's rivers. It used to be a popular fish for soup and for grilling, but it is now illegal to fish for it in many areas. Today, pollution is the biggest risk to carachama.
Living sometimes in the water and sometimes out, is the green anaconda. It's the largest snake in the world weight-wise (the reticulated python can grow longer, but weighs only half as much), reports National Geographic. The green anaconda is 20 to 30 feet long and weighs over 500 pounds. A member of the boa constrictor family, anacondas squeeze their prey and then swallow it whole, even something as large as a jaguar. Now, read on for these amazing discoveries to come out of the Amazon rainforest.