Sleeping, eating, soaring, greeting! Here are some of the best, most beautiful and most bizarre animals you’ll find in Brazil.
A small monkey with silky fur, the emperor tamarin lives in families in the lower and middle levels of rainforests, eating a variety of plant food – particularly berries, flowers, nectar, tree sap and leaves. They also hunt insects, snails, frogs and small lizards. Not just a pretty face, then!
Both adult male and female emperor tamarins have a flowing white moustache. The light white curls reach down as far as their forearms.
While it may not look like a gymnast, the mountain tapir’s short, stocky legs and splayed toes make it sure-footed and agile, capable of negotiating steep slopes and dense undergrowth. It has a keen sense of hearing and smell, and flees when threatened, often hiding underwater and using its trunk like a snorkel to breath until danger passes.
Young tapirs are often called “watermelons on legs” (we’re not kidding!) due to their camouflage markings, which allow them to blend in with dappled sunlight.
Is that an enormous, hairy jellybean? No! It’s a capybara. Related to guinea pigs, the capybara is the world’s largest living rodent, closer in size to a large domestic dog. It spends much of its time in rivers and lakes, partly to avoid predators such as wild dogs, pumas, and jaguars. Partially webbed, hoof-like toes make it an excellent swimmer.
Macaws are huge parrots with long tails and massive bills. The scarlet macaw – one of the largest members of this group – is a native of humid tropical forests. It lives in the dense tree canopy and communicates with far-carrying, ear-splitting screeches.
Scarlet macaws typically live in pairs but also assemble in noisy groups, resting in tall trees – like book club, for birds!
Think you like to sleep in? Sloths sleep for 15 hours a day, yet they are barely more active when awake. Living in slow motion to conserve energy, the sloth’s plant-based diet takes 6-21 days to be digested.
This might look like an unusual house cat, but it’s actually an oncilla. This spotted forest dweller is widespread in Brazil and beyond, where it hunts rodents, opossums, and birds. No daylight for this little guy, though – the oncilla is solitary and nocturnal.
Tiny, silky, but not to be messed with (at least if you’re an ant)! The world’s smallest anteater is not much longer than a human hand. Seldom seen, silky anteaters live on trees, feed from sunset to sunrise on as many as 5,000 ants each night, and rest through the day.
Silky anteaters live in silk floss trees, which provide the perfect camouflage, given the animal’s long, fine, smoky-grey fur. Each front foot of the anteater has two enlarged claws, which are perfect for climbing and digging into tree-ant nests, but must be turned inwards for it to move on the ground.
Need a new alarm clock? Might be worth making friends with a red howler monkey, whose growling roar is among the most distinctive sounds of the Amazonian rainforest. Just before dawn, each troop starts to call from the treetops to announce ownership of their home range, and other groups in the area may reply. Adapted hyoid bones in the monkeys’ throat amplify the sounds, which can be heard up to 5km away.
This is no flamingo! The roseate spoonbill is one of only six spoonbill species worldwide, named for its long, thick flattened bill that broadens out into a round tip or “spoon”.
When feeding, the spoonbill sweeps its bill, partly open, from side to side through shallow water; the bill snaps shut when small fish, water beetles, shrimp or snails touch the sensitive nerve endings inside the spoon.
Otter-zilla! The world’s largest otter is also one of the rarest – only a few thousand are thought to remain in the wild. Nicknamed the “river wolf”, this sinuous, web-footed, muscular member of the weasel family is one of South America’s largest predators. It’s fiercely territorial – which it has to be – in order to protect itself and its family from caimans, jaguars, pumas, and other threats in and around the river systems it calls home.