5 Animals You May Encounter in the Amazon Rainforest

South America’s rainforest is home to nearly 10 percent of all known animal species. Just a few of them include river dolphins, sloths, and howler monkeys.

May 29, 2024By Adeline Ee
animals you may encounter in the amazon rainforest

An estimated 430 species of mammals alone inhabit the Amazon! Among the most popular residents are monkeys, sloths, toucans, and jaguars. However, there are many other lesser-known animals that call the rainforest home, such as poison dart frogs, pink river dolphins, and harpy eagles.

The rainforest provides a home for animals of all shapes and sizes, and it is essential for their survival. By protecting the rainforest, we can ensure that these animals will continue to thrive for generations to come. Let’s meet some!

1. Sloth: More Than a Slow Mammal

sloth in a tree
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Sloths are slow-moving mammals known for their gentle nature and love of napping. Yet, there is much more to these creatures than meets the eye.

For example, did you know that sloths can swim? It’s true. They move three times faster in water than on land! They are also excellent climbers, and they have an excellent sense of smell. In fact, a sloth’s sense of smell is so strong that it can detect predators from up to 100 yards away! Some predators of sloths include ocelots, jaguars, and harpy eagles (more on those large birds later).

While there are six species of sloth, the most common is found in the Amazon. Measuring anywhere from 15 to 20 inches long, the brown-throated sloth is one of the smaller members of the sloth family. Its fur is predominately brown, but it also has patches of cream-colored fur on its face, neck, and chest.

sloth with a camera on its back
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Like other sloths, the brown-throated sloth is a slow-moving creature, spending most of its time high up in the trees. It is an adept climber, using its powerful claws to grip onto branches. The diet of the brown-throated sloth consists primarily of leaves, buds, and fruits. While not considered an endangered species, the brown-throated sloth faces threats from urbanization and even hunting.

2. Amazon River Dolphin: Nearly Extinct

amazon river dolphin
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

The Amazon river dolphin is a beautiful and unique creature. Found only in the waters of the Amazon Basin, this dolphin is pink or gray in color, with a long, beaked nose. Amazon river dolphins are very social animals, living in groups of up to fifteen individuals. They are also very curious creatures, often approaching boats and swimming alongside them. They’re a lot like saltwater dolphins in that way!

Unfortunately, like many other animal species that live in the Amazon, the Amazon river dolphin is now considered to be an endangered species. Their populations have declined sharply in recent years due to pollution, hunting, and habitat loss. Hopefully, these animals can come back from the brink of extinction.

.3 Macaws: Brightly Colored Tropical Birds

two macaws sitting
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Found in the tropical forests of Central and South America, macaws are brightly colored members of the parrot family. These beautiful birds are easily recognizable with their long tails and curved beaks, and they come in a variety of colors including blue, green, red, and yellow.

Macaws are highly intelligent creatures that are known for their playful personalities, and they can live up to 60 years in captivity. While macaws make wonderful pets, they are also threatened by habitat loss and illegal poaching.

There are 17 different species of macaws found in the Amazon (including the scarlet macaw), some of which have been known to mimic human speech. While all macaws can mimic human speech to some extent, these are just sounds. They don’t know what they’re saying! Still, the most talkative macaws include the blue-and-yellow macaw, the scarlet macaw, and the green-winged macaw.

4. Red Howler Monkey: Known for Howling

Red_howler_monkey_Manu_national_park
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

The red howler monkey is native to the Amazon Basin in South America. The monkey is named for its loud, distinctive call, which can be heard up to three miles away. Howler monkeys are among the largest of the New World monkeys and can weigh up to 20 pounds.

The red howler monkey has a distinctive appearance that serves many purposes. For instance, the monkey's reddish-brown fur helps to camouflage it in the trees, and its long tail is used for balance when leaping from branch to branch.

Fun fact: a group of howler monkeys is called a “troop,” and a single group can have more than 20 members!

5. Harpy Eagle: An Endangered Bird of Prey

Harpy_Eagle_(Harpia_harpyja)
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

The harpy eagle is a critically endangered bird species found in the Amazon. Today, there are less than 50,000 left in the world.

The eagle gets its name from the Greek mythological creature, which was said to have the body of a woman and the wings and talons of an eagle. Like its mythical namesake, the harpy eagle is a powerful hunter with razor-sharp claws. These birds of prey could easily fly away with a small dog.

Each talon is as large as a human hand, and they are used to snatch prey out of the air or from branches high above the ground. The harpy eagle also has incredibly keen eyesight, which it uses to spot potential meals from great distances.

The Amazon’s Animals Need Our Help

rainforest amazon
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

The Amazon is an essential resource for humans, providing us with food, medicine, clean air, and water. Unfortunately, this massive rainforest is under threat from deforestation and climate change. Every year, large tracts of forest are destroyed to make way for farmland and roads.

This not only destroys the habitat of countless animals and plants but also releases huge amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. By making better consumer choices like buying from responsible companies, we can protect the Amazon’s animals and conserve this fascinating region!

Adeline Ee
By Adeline Ee

Adeline graduated from the University of Washington with a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication and Marketing. Originally from Singapore, she is a fanatic dog-lover and volunteers her time to help strays whenever she can, participating frequently in spay and neuter programs.