Around 30% of the world’s animal and plant species can be found in the Amazon rainforest, including about 2,000 species of mammals and birds, and more than 2 million types of insects. So how many did I see on my recent visit? That’s right – not very many at all!
Most rainforest animals know to keep well clear of human beings, especially humans who are travelling round in noisy groups. To have any chance of seeing anything very much you would have to walk quietly in the jungle for several days, preferably with a guide who knows where to find the animals. Even then, you would have to be very lucky to see a jaguar or a boa constrictor.
I was pleased to see quite a lot of river dolphins – both the pink and the grey variety – although they were always far too quick for me to get any good pictures. Similarly with the monkeys – it was easy to spot where they were because the branches would start moving vigorously, but much more difficult to photograph them. Three toed sloths, though, are a different matter. Very hard to spot, often looking more like a large lump of foliage than anything else, but once you see one it tends to stay where it is long enough for a few pictures.
Along the smaller rivers you can spot green iguanas (well camouflaged and very fast) and water buffalo. The nearest I got to seeing a caiman was a head that some villagers had put on top of a pole.
We did better with birds. Vultures turned up everywhere: in the markets as fishermen gutted their catch and threw the rest away, perched on piles of rubbish, or circling above the forests. On the river there were long billed terns, egrets and the occasional hummingbird, and, in the smaller rivers, flycatchers and kingfishers. In all, I think we saw 27 species of bird that were new to us.
And of course, with over 2 million species to choose from, we saw lots of bugs. The tarantula was lured from its hole by a guide who knew where to find it, but we saw many types of moths, butterflies and other bugs as we went around.