Latin America specialist Sonia left us all green-eyed with tales of her incredible trip to Ecuador and Galapagos, one of the most exciting and varied destinations to visit. Read on to find out what she did and where she stayed…
Amazon wildlife guide
Jaguars (Panthera onca)
The largest feline in the Americas, jaguars are mostly solitary animals and do most of their hunting at night. They are opportunistic, stalk-and-ambush type predators, with a more powerful bite than lions. They have tawny coloured fur with dark brown spots that resemble rosettes.
Found: near rivers and lakes and shrubby areas.
Interesting fact: unlike many other cats, jaguars don’t mind the water and will often swim to catch prey.
Pumas (Puma concolor)
Pumas are the largest of the small cats and, thanks to excellent vision and hearing, are formidable hunters. Slender and agile, they have a yellow coat, round face and upright ears. They are both nocturnal and crepuscular creatures, meaning they are most active at night and the during the twilight hours.
Found: Amazon jungle and mountain forests.
Interesting fact: a puma’s tail is almost the same length as its head and body combined.
Red-eyed Tree Frog (Agalychnis callidryas)
The red-eyed tree frog has a bright green body with blue and yellow sides, and distinctive red eyes. As the name suggest, they spend the majority of their lives in trees and will only go on ground to mate. Tree frogs are typically small in size, rarely exceeding 10 cm in length.
Found: Amazon trees.
Interesting fact: have toes which give them superior grip.
They are one of the most colourful and largest species of parrot, with the average adult growing to almost a metre tall. They are social birds and can often form flocks of 10 – 30 individuals. Their distinctive curved beaks easily crush nuts and seeds. Certain species of this bird have been known to mimic human speech.
Found: forests along rivers, and grasslands with trees.
Interesting fact: macaws usually mate for life.
Giant River Otter (Pteronura brasiliensis)
The giant river otter is the world’s largest otter, measuring nearly 2 metres long. Members of the weasel family, they are well adapted to life in the water, with powerful tails, webbed feet and water-repellent fur. They can swim at speeds of 14km per hour and have diet made up mostly of fish.
Found: Amazon River.
Interesting fact: only a few thousand are left in the wild.
Pink Amazon River Dolphin (Inia geoffrensis)
Also known as the ‘Boto’, the Amazon River dolphin is actually a species of toothed whale. They are the largest river dolphin, with adults weighing up to 185 kilograms. They have a long snout, a rounded head and a small dorsal fin, and get their name from the pink colour they acquire in adulthood.
Found: the waterways of the Amazon.
Interesting fact: the Amazon River dolphin has a flexible neck.
Howler monkeys (Alouatta caraya)
Howler monkeys are the loudest member of the monkey family. They prefer staying in the trees in groups of 6-15, feeding mainly on canopy top leaves, fruits and nuts. Howler monkeys are either black or brown, with short snouts and long tails that can be up to 5 times longer than their bodies.
Found: Amazon rainforest.
Interesting fact: their howls can travel for 3 miles in the dense forest.
Squirrel Monkeys (Saimiri)
One of the smallest members of the primate family, the average squirrel monkey is 35cm tall. They weigh between 750 and 1000 grams, and have dense yellow-orange fur, black shoulders and white throats and ears. Squirrel monkeys are omnivores, and love to eat fruits, insects, leaves, flowers, nuts and birds’ eggs.
Found: tropical rainforests, marshes, mangrove forests.
Interesting fact: they spend nearly all their lives in the trees.
Close relations of alligators and crocodiles, they are found throughout Southern and Central America. They typically live in rivers, swamps and mangroves. They are covered in black/brown scales that protect against predators, and have a long, flattened tail. The black caiman can reach 5 metres in length.
Found: Amazon River, swamps and marshes.
Interesting fact: caimans are fantastic swimmers and can reach speeds of around 50km per hour.
American Crocodile (Crocodylus acutus)
Can be distinguished from the American alligator by a thinner snout and two long teeth on the lower jaw. This species is one of the largest of the world’s crocodiles, and can weigh in excess of 900 kilograms. They have short but muscular legs that end in sharp claws, with a long snout.
Found: Amazon River, mangrove swamps.
Interesting fact: The average crocodile will live up to 70 years.
South American Coati (Nasua nasua)
Found throughout tropical and subtropical South America. They have distinctive white rings on their tail, reddish-brown fur and a long snout that ends in a flexible nose, which it uses to search for food in small holes and cracks. Although males are solitary, females will often form large groups.
Found: Amazon rainforest.
Interesting fact: will travel up to 2 km each day in search of food.
Armadillos are nocturnal creatures, with a diet made up predominantly of ants and termites. Their ‘armour’ is made up of dermal bone covered by scales, with an underside covered only by soft skin and fur. Their heavy shells allow them to walk along the bottom of rivers and lakes. Despite their poor eyesight they have an excellent sense of smell.
Found: Amazon, swampy areas.
Interesting fact: they can smell food through 20cm of soil.
Harpy Eagle (Harpia harpyja)
The harpy eagle is one of the world’s largest birds. They are iconic birds of the Amazon rainforest, with jet black feathers, a grey head and a white belly. They typically feed on tree-dwelling mammals such as sloths and monkeys. The harpy eagle is an apex predator, although they can be hunted by jaguars and ocelots.
Found: tree canopies in tropical lowland rainforests.
Interesting fact: they have the largest talons of any eagle.
These squirrel sized monkeys weigh between 200 and 900 grams. They vary in colour – some are mostly black or golden, whilst others are a mixture of black, white and brown. Tamarins are agile creatures and can jump/swing through the trees with ease. Due to their small size they are easy targets for large birds, mammals and snakes.
Found: Amazon basin.
Interesting fact: known to live for up to 18 years.
Pygmy Marmoset (Cebuella pygmaea)
At just over 100 grams the pygmy marmoset is the smallest monkey in the world. Their fur is a combination of brown, gold, grey and black, with black rings on the tail. They use their teeth to gnaw holes in the bark of trees to source their favourite food: tree gum (sap).
Found: Amazon rainforest, river flood plains, lowlands.
Interesting fact: the pygmy marmoset can rotate its head 180 degrees.
Margay (Leopardus wiedii)
Often mistaken for the ocelot, the margay is a small and solitary cat with tawny-yellow fur and a pattern of dark brown spots. They are skilful climbers and spend most of their lives up in the trees, preying on monkeys, birds, lizards and tree frogs. They are mostly nocturnal but have been spotted hunting during the day.
Found: dense rainforest and high cloud forest.
Interesting fact: can hang from branches with a single foot.
Brazilian Tapir (Tapirus terrestris)
Also known as the ‘lowland tapir’, the Brazilian tapir is one of only four remaining tapir species. They are excellent swimmers and divers, and will often run into the water to escape from predators. They are pig-like in appearance, with long snouts and splayed toes that help them wade through water with ease.
Found: throughout the rainforest, often near water.
Interesting fact: they can eat up to 40kg of vegetation a day.
Sometimes referred to as the ‘water boa’, the anaconda moves slowly on land but fast in the water. The anaconda’s eyes and nostrils are located on the top of its head which allows it to stay hidden under water whilst stalking prey. They can remain submerged for 10 minutes.
Found: Amazon, slow-moving streams, swamps and marshes.
Interesting fact: a green anaconda can weigh over 220kg.
Sloths (Megalonychidae and Bradypodidae)
Sloth species can be categorised as either two-toed or three-toed. Tree-dwellers by nature, they spend most of their time above ground, using their long claws to cling onto the branches. They move at a leisurely two metres per minute and hold the title as the world’s slowest animal.
Found: Amazon, rainforest canopy.
Interesting fact: in spite of their reputation, sloths only sleep for about 10 hours a day.