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  • Writer's pictureEryn

The Amazon - The Largest Rainforest On Earth

A three-toed sloth using three limbs to hang from a tree branch in the Amazon Rainforest while it scratches its head

In the lush greenery of the Amazon jungle, it was almost impossible to spot what might be hiding within! Our guides would point to something in a flash, but even squinting through my camera zoom lens, it would take me several minutes to find what they'd spotted. The wildlife here has impeccable camouflage that can make locating them a little frustrating at times. The Amazon River is the home of many species, but one of them is infamously known as a ferocious and dangerous predator - the piranha. Though they do have mean-looking sharp teeth, piranhas are actually scavengers. They will forage and live on the food they find - plants and meat alike. They may form massive groups of up to a hundred, but surrounding themselves with many others is only for protection against larger predators.

The hands of our naturalist guide holding a piranha to reveal its sharp teeth with a fishing hook

Another inhabitant of the mighty Amazon River is the largest freshwater dolphin on earth - the pink river dolphin. They swiftly swim by our boat to check us out, their pink dorsal fins sliding in and out of the water. They have incredible agility and have evolved to become amazing navigators of the Amazon River. Unlike other dolphins, the vertebrae in their neck aren't fused, allowing the dolphins to swim at top speed and still have the ability to dodge the many obstacles in the creeks and rivers. Local legends and tales also surround the species, and it is considered extremely bad luck to harm or eat a pink river dolphin. I believe this is probably one of the reasons their species is flourishing today.

The dorsal fin of a pink river dolphin peaking above the river surface before the rainforest of the Amazon in the distance.
The dorsal fin of a pink river dolphin peaking above the river surface in the Amazon

Even though it is a harsh environment, the Amazon Rainforest is incredibly dense with life being home to 40,000 known plant species, 427 known mammal species, 1,300 known bird species, 378 known reptiles species, 400 known amphibian species, and 3000 known freshwater fish species. There is so much to observe, but one of my favorites is a sight rarely seen, the slowest mammal on earth - the three-toed sloth! These fuzzy creatures travel at an average speed of one to two meters per minute, and are so slow that algae grow on their coats! The herbivores spend almost their entire lives up in the treetops, sleeping fifteen to twenty hours per day. Even awake, the sloths often remain motionless, so we were quite grateful to see a mobile one! The Amazon Rainforest is lush and full of the unknown. Sadly, like many of the natural wonders on Earth, the Amazon faces deadly deforestation. The rainforest has already lost more than 20% of its original size, and is still losing 78 million acres each year! There are already ongoing efforts to save the home of countless species but if humans do succeed to destroy what's left of the mighty Amazon, all of these beautiful species, many of which are endemic to the Amazon, will cease to exist.


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