As the title suggests, the animal population of the Amazon is awesome–both in scope and fascinating variety. There is a plethora of species who make the Peruvian Amazon their homeland. Actually, to be a little more specific, there are over 10 million species of plants, insects, and animals–that we know of!–in the Amazon. Such ecological diversity is overwhelming, but also inspiring. Three of us in the the Forest Online decided to focus on learning about some of the animals in the Amazon, and we each wrote a post about the animal we selected, exploring their histories, their quirks, their importance
SAVE THE JAGUAR, SAVE THE FOREST
“I’m keeping my eyes open for the Jaguar because this animal is the symbol of the rainforest. It lives and hunts alone, and is on the struggle in the fight for his life”
The sun rises and sets each day in the Peruvian jungle, and it is the survival of the fittest who see the dawning of each new horizon. Among this lush and vibrant expanse of green rain forestry includes the most abundant sanctuary of biodiversity on the planet. Home to over 1900 species of birds, 500 species of mammals and 300 species of reptiles, it is those that distinguish themselves among the masses that climb their ranks.
The third largest feline species on the planet, the jaguar emerges as one of the more versatile creatures found in the forest. Their name is derived from the Native American word “yayuar” which means he who kills with one leap. Not only do they kill their pray (snakes, monkeys, deer’s, sloths, turtles, and anything else that they can catch) but they often go it alone too, living and traveling independently for the duration of their twenty year life. In this life they are gifted with powerful jaws capable of clamping force, the ability to run near as quickly as the cheetah at sixty four miles per hour. Not only can this member of the panther family run swiftly, it can also swim across rivers if need be adding to its mobility and hunting capability.
One would think that with their wide skill set, this king of the jungle would be thriving, however the population of Jaguars has declined over the last 100 years mainly because humans have slashed and burned much of their homeland for farming and agricultural purposes. At best it is thought that there is a remaining population of about 15,000 jaguars left on the surface of the planet. With the rise of deforestation, burning of fossil fuels, and expansion of agriculture, species are becoming extinct at a rate 1,000 times faster than normal.
If the Jaguar is having a tough time, imagine what is happening to the rest of the species? It is our responsibility as members of “The forest online” to tell the story of the forest, so that we can begin moving forward with proactive measures to mitigate environmental degradation.
Our hope is that by increasing awareness about the rainforest and our interaction with it we will be able to mitigate the extinction of special species such as the jaguar.
El mono lanudo de cola amarilla: Peru’s Jungle Swinger
I was rigged up to the zip line and getting ready to speed across above the jungle floor of Costa Rica when I suddenly halted. What on this Earth could have made that sound? I look on the zip line and see three howler monkeys scurrying across, screeching. I was in the jungle, zip lining with monkeys. This awesome experience was a pivotal point in sparking my interest of conservation and exploration of beautiful and unique species and is what drives me to the Perúvian amazon.
My love of mammals started long ago and was emphasized in my travels. Perú gives me the chance to search for monkey rediscovery. The yellow-tailed woolly monkey, that was thought to be extinct, was found again. Found again in 1974. This Peruvian mammal made its appearance once more and I believe a species that comes out of “extinction” deserves our attention. To me, it is clear this species has a purpose and a will to survive in its home of Perú.
The yellow-tailed woolly monkey, scientifically known as Oreonax flavicauda, is one of the five woolly monkey species. Showing off its beautiful mahogany fur and using its tail as fifth appendage, this monkey moves elegantly through the trees. You can distinguish them by the characteristic yellow tuft under the tail. The diet of mainly fruits, leaves, and buds supports the 10-20 pound, arboreal mammal. Although these agile monkeys travel in groups that vary in size, breeding takes place only every 2-3 years. The slower breeding cycle adds to the fragility of their decreasing population.
As innovative as we humans are, our activities can challenge species like the yellow-tailed mono. Hunting for the monkey’s soft fur, deforestation for oil and agriculture, and habitat destruction for coffee and mining play a significant role in destroying the home of this monkey. According to IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature), this monkey is critically endangered. Prospectively, there are about 250 individuals left in the Peruvian habitat.
Home for this aerial acrobat is one of the most biodiverse forest regions on the Earth: the montane forests of the Perúvian Andes. Living in, what is known is the cloud forests, the yellow-tailed woolly monkey is the among the faces of conservation in this region. The Neotropical Primate Conservation (NPC), The Rainforest Trust, and Asociación Peruana para la Conservación de la Naturaleza (APECO) are all organizations working toward supporting these species and it’s home.
The yellow-tailed woolly monkey is worth standing for. The monkey is a significant part of the global food chain as prey to big cats, distributing seeds and aiding the local flora of the environment. This monkey is a representative of Perú as one of the two endemic species of the country. As I explore the land in the Las Piedras region I will not see a yellow-tailed woolly monkey. It is this fact, that makes saving about 10,000 hectares so important. One day we could see a yellow-tailed woolly monkey here.
Probably Not a Housecat: Ocelots
Let me be frank: I’m in love with cats. I know, it’s so blasé and so all over the internet right now, but it’s a passion that I cannot deny myself. Ever since I found out that I was selected to travel to the Amazon rainforest, I have been reading and researching and investigating the cats of the rainforest. As it turns out, there are a fair amount of kitties in the forest. The cougar’s habitat ranges from the northern Yukon to the southern Andes, over 80% of the jaguar’s occupied range is in the Amazon–which Ian covered earlier–and the oncilla and margay make much of their homes there as well.
I took a particular liking to the ocelot. What’s not to like? They’re also known as the dwarf leopard, they look similar to a domestic cat, and they are even featured as an animal on Minecraft. Even game designers knew what was up with these exotic felines!
In all seriousness though, these kitties are fascinating. They are the only medium-sized (2-3 feet long) cat found in the tropics, and have a habitat range that covers southernmost Texas to northern Argentina. This enormous range means that they are one of the most widespread and successful cat species in the Americas. However, they weren’t always as present in wildlife, due to the overhunting of them for their beautiful coats.
Their coats are also spectacular, as they feature solitary white sports on the backs of their ears, which are called ocelli. The black rosettes that cover their coats are similar to a leopard, hence the nickname. However, that strong resemblance has also caused the downfall of the ocelot; just like the leopard. From 1972 to1996, the ocelot was classified as a vulnerable species because of overhunting for their furs. Conservation efforts were successful though, and now the ocelot is listed as least concern on the IUCN List.
Their lifestyle appears to mirror that of a college student’s: nocturnal, solitary, and sleeping up to 16 hours during the day. The ocelot’s large, amber eyes are adapted to being nocturnal, so that they may take in more light in the dark and therefore have better night vision when prowling their territory. Their territories cover up to 35 square miles, and these felines are very territorial. There have been observations of fighting to the death to defend one’s own territory when infringed on. Rarely do the kitties ever consentingly meet another ocelot, but when they do, it is either two of the same sex cat-napping in the trees, or mating. Reproduction is fairly slow, as the young remain with their mother for roughly two years before venturing out to stake their claim on territory in the jungle.
As a feline aficionado and future explorer of the Peruvian Amazon, I want to go into the forest and I want to sit my butt down in the bushes and I want to see an ocelot prowl his territory five feet away from me. Unfortunately, since they are nocturnal, it isn’t likely. As a wild animal, it isn’t likely either. Wild animals are fearful of humans, because we are a potential predator to them, and we are technically a foreign species in the Amazon. They aren’t naturalized to our presence, and so if I would really like to see one, I’ll be needing a few cans of Redbull (sugar-free, of course) and a whole lotta patience to sit through the night. There are ocelots who live in the region of the forest I will be visiting, so it is a real possibility that I may see one–should I only gain a look at the paw print of a ocelot in the muddy trail between the trees, my experience will still enhance my feline appreciation and appreciation for the incredible animals who call the Amazon their home.