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The Amazon Rainforest: A Cornucopia Of Wildlife

The Amazon rainforest is home to many species that make up twenty percent of those found on the planet. Covering an area of ​​two and a half million square miles, representing two-thirds of South America, the Amazon rainforest extends across nine countries: Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Venezuela, Suriname, Ecuador, French Guiana and Guyana.

Considered the world’s largest natural resource, the Amazon rainforest makes up over fifty percent of the earth’s total rainforest.

Known as the lungs of the earth, it produces over twenty percent of the Earth’s oxygen. more than any other source. As such, it is a vital source of the air we breathe.

Its canopies are home to the iconic toucan with its thick, short neck and large colorful beak in combinations of red, black, blue, white and red. In addition, the Amazon rainforest is home to over a third of the total bird species found on Earth. Many of which are endangered due to human encroachment and deforestation.

In addition to its abundant bird population, the Amazon rainforest is also home to the capybara. At two feet tall and weighing over a hundred pounds, the capybara is the largest rodent on the planet. An endangered species, it is an excellent swimmer, spending most days and nights in and under water. The capybara exists primarily on a diet of aquatic vegetation, melons, squash and grass.

The largest mammal of the Amazon rainforest is not a land animal as you might suspect, but lives in the Amazon River and its tributaries, the Amazonian manatee. Also known as sea cows (a reputation earned from their herbivorous habits and most days spent grazing). Some even assumed they saw mermaids when they encountered the Amazonian manatee.

Considered the most beautiful of all creatures of the Amazon rainforest is the mythical Amazon river dolphin. Suffering from the effects of the development of the Amazon rainforest, the pink Amazon river dolphin is a critically endangered species due to the pollution of its habitat by agriculture, mining and industry. Local fishermen do not see the dolphin for its beauty because of its habit of tearing holes in their nets to steal their fish.

A beautiful, but deadly resident of the Amazon rainforest is the jaguar. An excellent hunter and natural athlete, the jaguar grows up to six feet long and can weigh up to two hundred pounds. Naturally capable on land or in water, the jaguar can climb trees or run in search of its prey or swim after aquatic prey such as pirarucu or turtles.

A less attractive, but equally dangerous, resident of the Amazon rainforest is its largest predator, the black caiman. With no natural enemies except man, it can reach twenty feet in length and weigh over three thousand pounds. It has been known to eat the likes of giant river otters, capybaras, and even humans.

Of course the Amazon rainforest, with its diverse animal population, is home to not only large predators, but also almost tiny ones. One of the deadliest of which is the poison dart frog. Harmless if left alone it has the most powerful toxin known to man. Its toxin can kill up to a hundred people. Amazonian Indians have long collected the frog for its poison, which they use on their arrowheads when hunting.

The Amazon is a healthy environment for the legendary anaconda, which grows all its life. The largest ever caught was about twenty-eight feet long with a girth of forty-four inches, and is estimated to have weighed nearly five hundred pounds.

The most notorious of all the wild animals of the Amazon rainforest is undoubtedly the piranha. The most feared and best known of all rainforest creatures is the red bellied piranha. Feeding in large schools they can converge and devour with their sharp teeth such prey as caimans, anacondas and jaguars. However, contrary to popular myths, attacks on humans are extremely rare.

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