30 Amazon rain forest animals that may go extinct
The Amazon rain forest is home to a wide variety of spectacular animal species, many of which are exclusive to the location. Several animal species that live in the rain forest are going extinct at an alarming rate. These beautiful creatures die out for a variety of reasons; some of them are caused by people and some aren’t.
Around 60% of the Amazon is based in Brazil, with the rest spread out among eight other countries in South America. Deforestation has actually decreased substantially in the last 15 years, contrary to public perception. Even so, many of the unique animals who call the Amazon home are still at risk, especially with the widespread fires that have been popping up.
The ocelot is a wildcat native to the Americas with spots and stripes coloring its slender golden-yellowish body. They are predators that are mostly active at night, typically hunting and eating other animals that are under 2 pounds. They aren’t known for hunting anything that is larger than they are.
Ocelots are smaller than the more well-known jaguar and comparable in size to bobcats. They mainly face danger from hunters who kill them for their skins in order to trade them, which is illegal. There are also some habitat concerns, but they have not yet reached any sort of endangered status.
Howler monkeys aren’t normally aggressive creatures, but they do produce a loud, howling sound that is distinct to them and can be heard from several miles away. Their diet mostly consists of plants and the like, but they occasionally will eat birds’ eggs, snatching them directly from the birds’ nests.
There are 15 species of howler monkeys, all living throughout South America and parts of Central America. The most significant threat that they face is from humans, who invade their natural territory and catch them to illegally keep as pets or put them in zoos. Their habitat has also been shrinking in recent years.
The capybara is native to South America and is the largest rodent in the world. It prefers to stay in small to medium-sized groups but may even be seen with as many as 100 others. They are hunted by larger predators and usually only live about four years because they get killed off.
Although they aren’t necessarily a delicacy, they are farmed for their meat, especially in South America. Their meat is tough, so many aren’t fond of eating them. They aren’t overly aggressive animals and will cuddle up with almost anything and anyone. Like many animals, capybaras are kept at zoos for visitors to observe.
The glass frog gets its name from its transparent skin, which makes it possible to see its tiny organs from outside its body. They originated in South America, spreading across the continent and multiplying into Central America. They’re tiny creatures, which makes them a target for predators of all different sizes.
Glass frogs aren’t poisonous and don’t really pose a threat to anything but insects. They are typically active at night in order to avoid the sun and stay moist. The males are heavily involved in protecting their eggs throughout the day, retreating at nighttime in order to hunt their prey.
The king vulture is one of the largest vultures in the world, known for the distinctive orange growth on its beak. This large bird feeds on carrion, usually killed and left lying around by other birds or predators. They primarily live in tropical habitats or forests, where they greatly thrive.
King vultures primarily live in the Amazon rain forest but have been spotted as far north as Mexico. They aren’t endangered or even close to it, but their habitat has slowly begun disappearing. This has led to a significant decrease in their numbers out in the wild, which could speed up in the near future.
Like the larger howler monkey, the squirrel monkey is also only found in Central and South America and there are some types that are native to Costa Rica. There are two species of spider monkeys that are threatened and could be facing extinction in the coming years if abuse keeps up.
Squirrel monkeys are characterized by their small size (only growing to about a foot in length, not counting the length of their tails) and rounded heads. They have a diet of insects and fruit but will also eat eggs occasionally. Because of their cute appearance, many like keeping them as pets.
Giant river otter
Giant river otters are quite a bit larger than the typical otter that are more commonly known and are mainly found living and hunting in the Amazon River. They have become rarer in the wild and are approaching extinction with each passing year, mainly due to their habitat being destroyed.
Because of the giant river otter’s size, they don’t really have any significant predators. Humans actually pose the greatest threat to their survival. Giant river otters do share the same type of prey with other predators, which means they have to compete with them for food. Their wing-looking tail is one of their defining features.
The toco toucan is the largest and the most well-known toucan species. They mostly live in the Amazon rain forest but can be found in multiple locations in South America. They are also a popular animal for audiences to view at zoos due to their colorful beaks and unique physical appearance.
Toco toucans have a really diverse diet, including fruit and insects. They also feed on frogs and other smaller animals. They aren’t in any immediate danger, but they could disappear in later years. One interesting fact about their habitat is that they actually thrive in open areas caused by deforestation.
Poison dart frog
Unlike the glass frog, poison dart frogs are incredibly poisonous. There are close to 200 species of different poison dart frogs, each with a diverse range of colors. Their bright, almost neon colors warn predators of their poisonous nature. They are also tiny and hard to find out in nature.
There are a number of poison dart frog species that are being threatened by human interference. Their habitat has been intruded upon in multiple areas where they had previously thrived. Poison dart frogs are only found in Central and South America, unless you include zoos where they are kept in captivity.
The hyacinth macaw is a parrot with bright-blue plumage that is native to South America. They are known to use tools, such as small pieces of wood or chewed leaves, to open nuts and get at their food. They usually don’t resort to such tactics because of their strong beaks.
Hyacinth macaws are currently threatened in nature and have the potential to be extinct in the upcoming decades if things don’t change. Human interference and destruction is primarily what’s to blame for their steadily shrinking numbers. They are also captured in great numbers to keep as pets and for trade.
Brazilian three-toed sloth
The Brazilian three-toed sloth is aptly named due to its number of toes and its habitat, although its toes are more like long, pointy claws. These sloths are native to South and Central America, and are only found outside those areas in zoos. Their slow nature makes them easy for prey to catch.
Interestingly, three-toed sloths can swim, which helps them get around much faster than when they’re in the trees. Brazilian sloths live around 30 years in the wild, assuming they aren’t killed by predators. They are reliant on their habitat, so the destruction of the Amazon rain forest could wipe them out.
The bullet ant isn’t messing around when it stings others, especially when it stings people. Some say the bite feels like the equivalent of getting shot by an actual bullet. The pain from their stings actually lasts for a full day and can last longer if you receive multiple stings.
This species of ant is used by one of the indigenous peoples who live in the Amazon rain forest for a rite of passage. They fit around 80 ants into a charcoal glove and make youths wear it for up to five minutes. The stingers face inwards and can cause paralysis for several days.
The giant armadillo is the largest of its species. They are only native to South America and are found primarily in the Amazon rain forest. It’s a vulnerable species due to hunting, trading on the black market, and deforestation. They have decreased in population by around 50% in the last few decades.
Although they mostly eat ants and termites, they also feed on other insects and small animals such as snakes and spiders. They have a characteristically large middle claw on both of their front paws. There are currently groups trying to conserve this unique creature due to their rapidly declining numbers.
Green anacondas live in the Amazon rain forest and other parts of South America, hunting as they swim in the murky water. They are nonpoisonous snakes, so they have to catch and swallow their prey whole. They’re pretty long snakes, with some rumored to be up to 40 feet in length.
These anacondas rely on their excellent swimming abilities for survival in the wild and live in areas near water. They are exclusive to South America and won’t survive much longer if the rain forest continues to disappear. Green anacondas typically kill their prey by constricting their bodies around their prey’s body.
Jaguars are prominent in mythological circles as well as general popular culture. They are native to the Americas, mostly appearing in South America as their numbers continue to decrease in the wild. Their large size and power make them the kings of predators wherever they end up living and hunting.
The jaguar hunts almost anything that has meat on or in it. They prey on around 90 different species; they’re not picky eaters, that’s for sure. Hunting jaguars for any reason is illegal almost everywhere, or heavily restricted. Even so, their population has continued to diminish as the decades go by.
There are over 3,000 species of stick bugs that have been discovered. They can be found all over the world, but not in Antarctica, for obvious reasons. The jumping stick bug is distinct for its jumping ability and alien-looking head. You can find them in South America in different forest areas.
It’s clear that these insects won’t be dying out at any point in the near future, but it’s possible that the jumping stick could. The Amazon rain forest is home to many of these creepy-looking insects. They are preyed on by many animals, which is why they have developed their plant-like appearance.
Found in Central and South America, the spectacled owl is characterized by its mask-like pattern on the feathers on its face that almost look like spectacles. Spectacled owls aren’t that close to extinction yet, but their disappearing habitat is bringing them closer to it than they have been in the past.
The spectacled owl has a very unique sound that it makes during the night, which is sort of a tapping-on-wood sound. Like most owls, they prey on rodents. They will also occasionally eat some of the smaller monkeys, if they can catch them. They are nocturnal and can be loud.
The red uakari, also known as the bald-headed uakari, is easily spotted due to its bald, red head. It has a furry reddish coat that makes its head pop even more. There is a very tiny section of the Amazon rain forest that they live in, and the species is a candidate for extinction in the coming years.
Red uakaris have a diet that mostly consists of leaves, but they also eat some insects and smaller animals. Some sources of danger for the species include their susceptibility to malaria and their being singled out by hunters. They may not be around much longer if they continue to be wiped out.
The jaguarundi is a much smaller wildcat than the jaguar. It doesn’t actually look like a jaguar, despite its similar name. They primarily live in Central and South America, but have been spotted as far as Alabama and Florida in the United States, due to their migration many years ago.
They are not endangered at this point in time, but they could begin to disappear, although it is less likely due to their distribution across the Americas. They aren’t really in danger from hunters, and instead, are threatened by their increasing loss of habitat. Jaguarundis mostly feast on smaller animals.
Amazon river dolphin
The Amazon river dolphin stands out from all other species of dolphins due to its pointy snout and bright pinkish color. They prey on over 50 different species of fish and are, like other dolphins, incredibly friendly with people. They will also occasionally eat turtles and crabs of different species.
These quirky pink dolphins are becoming increasingly scarce in the wild and don’t survive well when they’re in captivity. Their biggest threat to survival is hunting and use as bait by humans. They also die from collisions with small boats and by accidentally being caught in man-made structures, such as nets.
The jocotoco antpitta is endangered, only living in a couple of places in both the wild and in captivity: Ecuador and Peru. The tiny bird is commonly mistaken for other species of birds, so they could actually be more at risk or substantially less endangered than they are marked as by conservationists.
Jocotoco antpittas have characteristically long legs and a distinct coloring on their plumage, with bright-white spots under their eyes. They feed on insects of various species and of different sizes, which they can catch from the ground as they run across the Amazon rain forest in a sporadic little flurry.
The Yasuni bat is only found in Ecuador and is a subspecies of the genus lophostoma. They hunt at night and can even be found on clay licks like some types of macaws. There are several types of Yasuni bats. Some of them build tent-like structures to protect their babies and keep them warm.
Yasuni bats, like many other animals and insects in the Amazon rain forest, are in danger of being wiped out if their habitat continues to be destroyed. They have some predators, but humans are their main threat. Their ears resemble leaves, which they rely on to sense the world and hunt.
Black spider monkey
Black spider monkeys are all black, including their skin and their fluffy fur (even their eyes). They are becoming more scarce due to hunting and increasing habitat loss. They may soon become extinct due to human activity. They live in a small portion of the Amazon rain forest in South America and nowhere else.
Black spider monkeys have really long arms and they also have a distant cousin that has all-black fur, but a distinctly red face. Black spider monkeys eat mostly fruit, with over 80% of their diet consisting of fruit. They are nonaggressive, which makes them easy to hunt and kill.
The hoatzin is known for the crest on its head, colored bright orange. They are native to South America, but can only be found in less than 25% of the continent. Hoatzins thrash about in the air if they are attacked by hawks to scare and distract them from their offspring.
Hoatzins aren’t currently in danger of becoming extinct, but they continue to have their habitat destroyed, which is decreasing their numbers. Even so, they are in less danger than most other animals on this list. They aren’t hunted often because they don’t taste that good, but their eggs are sometimes robbed by humans to eat.
The harpy eagle stands out from other eagles because of the feathers on its head, which stand up and look a little silly. They hunt a variety of animals and are even known to take livestock from nearby farmers. Their numbers have steadily fallen in the last few decades due to a slowly shrinking habitat.
Their name originates from Greek mythology. Harpies were the beings who took the dead to the god of the underworld, Hades. They have attacked humans who approach their nests, since they see them as a threat to their young. Sometimes, they are killed and eaten by other predators such as the large jaguar.
The black caiman has much darker-colored skin than other crocodiles or alligators, which is where their name originates. They are native to the Amazon rain forest and mainly reside in rivers and other wet places, waiting to catch their prey. Their babies are housed in pods, which the females guard vigilantly.
Black caimans are on the lower spectrum of the threatened scale, but they are still in danger of extinction sometime in the near future. They had actually almost become extinct, but they have since recovered a bit. Hunting and habitat loss were the main factors in their very-near demise.
South American tapir
The South American tapir is a weird-looking mammal that resembles a much smaller, bootleg elephant. They have become extinct in specific parts of South America and have become more endangered in recent years. They aren’t close to extinction but are vulnerable as their numbers dwindle. They are also known as the Brazilian tapir.
The main reason for their diminishing numbers is hunting. They are killed for their hide and for their meat. Habitation loss is another factor it shares in common with many animals and insects that are native to the Amazon rain forest. They are the least vulnerable of all tapir species, but still in danger.
The pygmy marmoset is native to South America and is one of several species. It lives in the western portion of the Amazon rain forest exclusively. It’s not massively endangered but still faces threats, primarily from humans’ impact on the environment. It has a large saturation of population in some areas.
These creatures are tiny and basically fluffballs. They have a very rapid, unique call that they use. They are highly sought-after as pets, probably because they’re the smallest primates in the entire world. They have several types of movements that make them fun to watch, such as a type of strutting.
South American river turtle
The South American river turtle, referred to as the Arrau turtle, is the biggest of the turtles whose head comes out sideways. There is a large amount of factors that contribute to their increasingly threatened numbers, including pollution and hunting. They still have a ways to go before they disappear, but are nonetheless becoming rarer.
The South American river turtle is commercially farmed, which has increased their numbers in captivity. They can live as long as 80 years if they’re big, and some have their eggs taken for consumption (those pre-turtles don’t live as long, unfortunately). Arrau turtles usually stay at the bottom of rivers to feed.
The leaf-mimic katydid is just one of many types of katydids that exist in the wild. There are actually over 6,000 species of katydids. Leaf-mimic katydids look exactly like you’d think, using their appearance to keep predators away. This is particularly effective in the Amazon rain forest, where there are hundreds of predators.
The species that live in the Amazon rely on the forest to survive and feed, whether it’s on plants or other insects. Destruction of the rain forest would threaten their survival and even drive them into extinction. You can imagine what would happen to these insects if the Amazon fires reach them.