What Are the Dangers of the Amazon Rainforest, USA Today

What Are the Dangers of the Amazon Rainforest?

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The dense Amazon rainforest has hidden dangers. (Photo: Adalberto Rios Lanz/Sexto Sol/Photodisc/Getty Images )

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The Amazon rainforest covers over 2.1 million square miles of tropical terrain in South America. Most of the Amazon lies in Brazil, though several other countries, including Peru and Ecuador, also hold large sections of this massive jungle. The Amazon’s natural beauty and immense biodiversity attract tourists in search of exotic adventures. However, this region can be just as dangerous as it is beautiful. Visitors should know about the primary dangers of the Amazon rainforest prior to travel in order to plan for a safer trip.


Tourists are especially prone to sickness while traveling in the Amazon rainforest. According to Goparoo Travel Guide, the biggest threat comes from mosquitoes carrying malaria and yellow fever. These are both serious illnesses, so get the appropriate vaccinations before you go to the Amazon. Visitors may also get sick from the local food and water. Even relatively clean food and water sometimes contain different strains of bacteria and microorganisms that foreigners’ immune systems are not used to dealing with. This can lead to fever, diarrhea and dehydration. Only drink bottled water, and make sure your food is fresh and properly washed to reduce your chances of getting sick.


The chance to get up close and personal with Amazonian wildlife is one of the main reasons people visit the region, but wild animals also present one of the primary threats. Contrary to Hollywood depictions of the Amazon rainforest, most animals do not go out of their way to hunt down humans. However, the rainforest is brimming with creatures that will attack in self defense. Images of jaguars, alligators, anacondas and piranhas come to mind when thinking of the most formidable animals in the Amazon. In addition, the rainforest houses numerous species of small, venomous creatures like snakes and frogs. However, the most common problems arise from encounters with blood-sucking leeches as well as the aforementioned health issues involving disease-carrying mosquitoes. Fodor’s Travel Guide recommends wearing sturdy boots and pants when hiking in the jungle to protect yourself from bites. Always check your boots or shoes before putting them on to make sure no creatures have crawled inside. Fodor’s also recommends packing plenty of insect repellent, anti-itch cream and a mosquito net to keep out pests you when you sleep.


Weather also produces dangerous conditions in the Amazon rainforest. According to Frommer’s, the height of the wet season in the Amazon lasts from October to May with especially heavy rains in March and April. Rains wash out roads and cause the water levels to rise dramatically in the Amazon River and in the hundreds of connecting tributaries. This leads to flooding as well as extremely powerful river currents that have been known to sink boats. Goparoo Travel Guide recommends traveling to the Amazon between June and September when weather conditions are more favorable.


Leaf Group is a USA TODAY content partner providing general travel information. Its content is produced independently of USA TODAY.


Amazonian giant centipede

These are amongst the worlds largest centipedes. They can reach up to 30cm in length.

Where can you see them? They live in the rainforests in the north and west of South America and Caribbean Islands. They need moisture so are usually found in damp soil, leaf-litter and rotten wood.

What do they eat? They are aggressive predators that feed on almost everything they encounter that they can kill. They use their fast-acting and deadly venom to subdue animals much bigger than themselves. They eat insects, tarantulas, lizards, frogs, snakes, birds, mice and even bats. They crawl up to the ceiling of bat caves and dangle by their back legs to catch them. They rely on their senses of touch and smell to hunt as they have bad eyesight.

Are they endangered? They are easily reared in captivity so despite being kept as pets or for show, there is no need to take them from the wild. There is no indication that these giant centipedes are currently threatened in the wild.


Adaptations of Centipedes

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Centipedes form the class of arthropods known as Chilopoda. These distinctive creatures have several adaptations that help them thrive in nature, including poison claws, numerous legs and a nocturnal lifestyle. Additionally, centipedes are able to live in a wide variety of environments and can grow to large sizes because of their evolutionary success.

The Poisonous Pinch

All centipedes have one thing in common: their forcipules. No other creatures have these distinctive adaptations. The forcipules are modified legs found right behind the centipede’s head. They operate as pinchers that grab prey and inject it with venom that passes from glands into a tube in each of the legs. These forcipules can take down many types of prey, including spiders, insects. Because these are not really part of the centipede’s mouth, if you are “bitten” by one of these creatures, you are actually just being pinched by its forcipules and, possibly, injected with its venom.

Centipede Venom

Centipede venom contains a number of different chemicals, including serotonin, histamines, and acetylcholine. In humans, the histamines can cause an allergic reaction, particularly in people who have sensitivity to the venom of insects. The serotonin causes intense pain, particularly when the venom comes from one of the larger centipede species, such as the Amazonian giant centipede, which can be over 12 inches long. This venom serves as another adaptation that allows centipedes to easily kill prey larger than itself. The Amazonian giant centipede, for example, eats frogs, mice and bats.

Lots of Legs: The Centipede Trademark

This arthropod’s name literally means “100 legs,” even though members of the Chilopoda class can have anywhere from 15 to 177 pairs of legs. Each of the centipede’s body segments has its own pair of legs, and more segments are added to the centipede’s body as he continues to molt and grow. The real advantage of having so many legs is speed. Centipedes travel fast, so they are hard to see and even more difficult to catch. This speed means successful predators must be faster or smarter if they want to use centipedes as food sources.

Adaptability to Diverse Environments

Centipedes have adapted successfully to a wide range of environments. For example, the giant desert centipede (Scolopendra heros) and the common desert centipede (Scolopendra polymorpha) live in the desert. They hide from the heat and scorching sun during the day then hunt for food at night. Other centipedes, such as the wood centipede (Lithobius forficatus) have adapted to cold weather by developing a tolerance to freezing. The study «Freeze Tolerance Adaptations in the Centipede, Lithobius Forficatus» published in the April 1994 Journal of Experimental Zoology found that wood centipedes could inoculate themselves against freezing to survive the winter.

“Seeing” by Antennae

Most centipedes stay in dark, moist areas where food sources are plentiful. They tend to have simple eyes or no eyes at all. Even the species that have compound eyes do not have very good vision. Instead, centipedes rely on their antennae to sense potential prey. The sensitivity of their antennae is more effective than their eyes would be at locating food in these dark environments, and this adaptation allows them to hunt for prey without exposing themselves to their own predators.


Giant Centipede

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This is the largest native Australian centipede and is a member of the scolopendrid family. The largest centipede in the world, Scolopendra gigantea, is a 30 cm centipede from South America that is able to eat mice and lizards.


The Giant Centipede ranges in colour from dark blue-green-brown to orange-yelllow. It has black bands along the body and yellow legs and antenna. The body is long and flatterned with 25 or 27 body segments and 21 or 23 pairs of legs. The first pair of legs behind the head are modified claws which curve around its head and can deliver venom into its prey. The venom is toxic to both mammals and insects, but does not appear to be strong enough to kill large animals quickly.


The Giant Centipede can be found in both dry and moist habitats, usually in sheltered places such as under logs,in leaf litter, soil, under rocks and bark in urban areas, forests, woodlands, heath, rainforests and deserts. It is solitary, terrestrial and a nocturnal predator.


The Giant Centipede is found throughout Australia.

Feeding and diet

The Giant Centipede feed on insects, snails and worms.

Other behaviours and adaptations

Giant Centipedes are nocturnal, during the day they hide in damp, sheltered places and during the night, when the relatively humidity is high, they hunt their prey.

Breeding behaviours

Females lay their eggs in clusters, usually in summer and autumn. She guards the eggs and hatchlings till after their second moult.

Danger to humans

A Giant Centipede may bite if disturbed or handled, the bite may cause severe pain that could persist for several days, however no deaths have been recorded from the bite of any Australian centipede. Pain can be relieved somewhat by the application of icepacks. Some people report «intense pain» while others claim it is no worse than a wasp sting. Seek medical attention if symptoms persist.


Rainforest Animals List With Pictures, Facts & Links To Further Information, Plus FREE Printable Question Sheets

Rainforests cover between 6 and 7% of the world’s land surface, yet are home to more than half of all the world’s animal and plant species.

In addition, it is thought that there are millions of species living in rainforests that are still to be discovered.

This page contains facts, pictures and links to further information on a wide range of rainforest animals from all around the world.

Scroll down to see all of the animals in alphabetical order, or select the species you’d like to see using the Rainforest Animals List Index, below.

Page Index

Rainforest Animals List: Index

Rainforest Amphibians Rainforest Birds Rainforest Fish
Poison Dart Frog
Red Eyed Tree Frog
White-Lipped Treefrog
Harpy Eagle
King Vulture
Lovely Fairywren
Rainforest Scops Owl
Electric Eel
South American Lungfish
Rainforest Insects Rainforest Mammals Rainforest Reptiles
Blue Morpho Butterfly
Giraffe Weevil
Goliath Beetle
Leafcutter Ant
Red Imported Fire Ant
Howler Monkey
Spider Monkey
Vampire Bat
Arrau Turtle
Boa Constrictor
Green Anaconda
Green Iguana
Other Rainforest Animals
Amazonian Giant Centipede
Goliath Birdeater

You can find out more about the animals listed below by clicking on the pictures or on the links provided. If you have a favorite rainforest animal then let us know in the comments section at the bottom of the page!

FREE Rainforest Animals Printable Worksheet – Test your knowledge!

Click on the images or links below to view / download FREE printable question sheets for use with this page. (You can find more free worksheets from Active Wild on this page: Free Printable Worksheets.)

Rainforest animals printable question sheet 1: click image to view / download. Rainforest animals printable question sheet 2: click image to view / download.

Worksheet Download Links

  • Rainforest Animals Question Sheet 1: View / Download
  • Rainforest Animals Question Sheet 2: View / Download

The answers to the questions can all be found either on this page, or on pages linked to from this page. The question sheets make a great home or classroom activity, and can be used to encourage (easy) internet-based research, as well as rainforest knowledge.

What Is A Rainforest?

As the name suggests, rainforests are forests found in areas that receive a high amount of rain. All rainforests receive at least 1.8 m (70 in.) of rain in a year; some rainforests receive over 3 m (118 in.).

Tropical rainforests are rainforests that are located near the Equator. They are hot, humid places. The average monthly temperature in a tropical rainforest is at least 18 °C (64 °F), with little difference between summer and winter.

  • You can find out about the other types of rainforest here: Rainforest Facts

A tropical rainforest’s unique mix of high rainfall and constant high temperature provides plants and animals with an ideal environment in which to live.

Because of their high biodiversity, tropical rainforests are among the world’s most important habitats. (Biodiversity is the amount of different species that live in one area.)

Let’s meet some rainforest animals…

Discover more about rainforests at Active Wild…

Become a rainforest expert by visiting the pages below!

  • Find out more about the world’s rainforests at our main Rainforests Page.
  • Discover the layers of a rainforest: Rainforest Layers
  • Rainforest plants are just as exciting as rainforest animals! Find out why here: Rainforest Plants List.
  • Interested in the Amazon Rainforest in particular? You’ll find pictures and facts about its animals and plants here: What is in the Amazon Rainforest?
  • Download Active Wild Rainforest Workbooks.
  • Find out more about the animal kingdom here: Animals: The Ultimate Guide.

You can see more rainforest animals on these pages…

  • Discover amazing rainforest mammals here: Rainforest Mammals List
  • Discover amazing rainforest reptiles here: Rainforest Reptiles List
  • Discover amazing rainforest insects here: Rainforest Insects List
  • Discover amazing rainforest monkeys here: Rainforest Monkeys List

List Of Rainforest Animals

For individual species (i.e. tiger), we’ve included the animal’s scientific name and its IUCN conservation status (if assessed). For groups of species (i.e. anteaters) we’ve included the number of species in the group and the group’s name.

Amazonian Giant Centipede

Reaching lengths of up to 30 cm (1 ft.), the Amazonian giant centipede is one of the world’s largest centipedes. The species is found in the Amazon Basin (the region surrounding the Amazon River) and other tropical parts of northern South America.

The Amazonian giant centipede is a voracious predator. It hunts insects, spiders (including tarantulas), lizards, frogs, snakes and even small mammals. The centipede injects its prey with paralyzing venom. This venom is delivered via ‘venom claws’ located on the centipede’s first segment.


Anteaters are members of a group of animals with the Latin name Vermilingua, which means ‘worm tongue‘. The name comes from the animals’ long, thin tongues, which are used to gather up large quantities of ants and termites.

There are four species of anteater: the giant anteater, silky anteater, southern tamandua and northern tamandua.

  • You can discover more about anteaters here: Anteater Facts
  • Find out more about the giant anteater here: Giant Anteater Facts

Arrau Turtle

The Arrau turtle is also known as the South American river turtle. It is a large freshwater turtle found in rivers throughout much of northern South America. The species is present in both the Amazon and the Orinoco rivers.

Full-grown adults have carapace (shell) lengths of over 1 m (3.3 ft.) and can weigh up to 90 kg (200 lb.).

The Arrau turtle is the world’s largest species of side-necked turtle. Side-necked turtles (Pleurodira) tuck their heads into their shells with a sideways motion. Members of the other main group of turtles, Cryptodira, pull their heads straight back into their shells.

Although the turtle’s conservation status is currently ‘Lower Risk’, its population is thought to be declining rapidly and there are some calls for the species to be considered ‘Critically Endangered’.


The aye-aye is a species of lemur found in the rainforests of Madagascar (an island country off the east coast of Africa). It is the world’s largest nocturnal primate.

(You can find out more about lemurs further down the page.)

The aye-aye eats grubs (insect larvae), which it finds by tapping on trees with its fingers.

By listening carefully to the noise produced by the tapping, it can tell if a grub is hidden under the bark. The aye-aye’s elongated middle fingers are specially adapted for hooking grubs out of holes.

  • You can find out more about the mysterious aye-aye here: Aye-aye Facts


Binturongs – otherwise known as ‘bearcats‘ – are the largest members of the animal family Viverridae. (Members of this family are known as viverrids).

The binturong’s long tail is ‘prehensile‘ (i.e. it can hold onto things). A binturong uses its tail as an ‘extra hand’ while climbing.

The binturong is the only Old World mammal with a prehensile tail. (‘Old World’ is a collective term for the continents of Europe, Asia and Africa.)

Binturongs live in the forests of South and Southeast Asia.

  • You can find out more about the binturong here: Binturong Facts

Blue Morpho Butterfly

Blue morphos are brilliant blue butterflies. The name is used for any blue butterfly in the genus morpho. (A genus is a group of closely related species.)

Blue morphos feed (among other things) on rotting fruit, which they find on the floor of rainforests in South and Central America.

Sometimes there are so many blue morphos flying over the rainforest canopy that pilots can see the blue of their wings from the sky!

  • You can find out more about blue morpho butterflies here.

Boa Constrictor

The boa constrictor is a large rainforest snake. It ambushes its prey, then constricts (squeezes) it before swallowing it whole.

This fearsome reptile is found in Central and South American rainforests.

The boa constrictor is a member of the family Boidae, a group of large, non-venomous snakes that also contains the green anaconda (see further down the page).

The boa constrictor is one of the few animals commonly known by their scientific names!

  • You can find out more about the boa constrictor here.


Caimans are predatory reptiles that live in the rivers and lakes of Central and South American rain forests (and other habitats). There are six species of caiman.

The spectacled caiman, one of the most common species of caiman, gets its name from the bony ridge on its nose, which makes the reptile appear to be wearing glasses.

Together with crocodiles, alligators and gharials, caimans form a group of animals known as ‘Crocodilians‘.

  • Find out more about caimans here: Caiman Facts & Information.
  • You can find out more about the spectacled caiman here: Spectacled Caiman Facts


  • Scientific name: Vandellia cirrhosa
  • Conservation status: Unassessed
  • Where found: South America

The candiru is a small fish found in the Amazon River and several other South American rivers and their tributaries. It has a long, thin, translucent body. Small spines are present on its gill covers.

These rainforest fish feed on the blood of larger fish by attaching themselves to their gills. It is even rumored that the candiru can enter a human body. However, this is unproven and unlikely.


The capybara is the world’s largest rodent. It lives South and Central American forests.

The capybara has several adaptations for a semi-aquatic lifestyle. and is always found living close to water. It can remain submerged for up to five minutes – a useful skill to have for an animal commonly hunted by jaguars and ocelots!

  • You can read more about capybaras here: Capybara Facts.


Civets are cat-like mammals found in rainforests in Asia and Africa. They produce a strong-smelling substance that is used to make perfume (although most perfume manufacturers are now switching to synthetic alternatives).

Like binturongs (see further up the page), most civets are members of the Viverridae family. The African palm civet, a civet found in the rainforests of Africa, is in the family Nandiniidae.

Civits are mammals in the group Carnivora. This group is split into two branches; Feliforma (the cat-like carnivorans) and Caniformia (the dog-like carnivorans). Civits, along with animals such as cats and hyenas, are placed in Feliforma.


Coatis are also known as ‘coatimundis‘. These cat-sized carnivorous mammals are members of the raccoon family, Procyonidae.

Coatis forage on the forest floor by day. They find food among the leaf litter using their acute sense of smell. During the night they rest in the rainforest canopy.

Coatis are found in South America and in southern North America.

  • You can find out more about the South American coati here: South American Coati Facts

Electric Eel

Despite its name and eel-like appearance, the electric eel is a knifefish rather than a true eel. This long, thin fish has a fin running almost the whole length of the underside of its body. By moving this fin with a wave-like motion the electric eel is able to swim both forwards and backwards.

Like other knifefish, the electric eel is able to produce electrical fields that help it navigate in murky water. However, the electric eel has greatly developed this ability, and is able to produce electrical fields strong enough to stun prey and deter predators.

The amount of electricity produced by the electric eel can be life-threatening to humans.

  • You can find out more about this animal here: Electric Eel Facts

Giraffe Weevil

This strange-looking rainforest bug is found in the island country of Madagascar. The giraffe weevil’s name comes from the species’ elongated neck. This is an adaptation for fighting and nest-building.

The neck of the male is over twice as long as that of the female, giving the insect a total body length of almost 1 in. (2.54 cm).

The female makes a nest by rolling a leaf into a tube, in which she will lay a single egg.

Goliath Beetle

The five species of goliath beetles are the world’s largest insects. In their adult form they are over 10 cm (3.93 in.) long. Their larvae weigh up to 100 grams (3.5 oz.)

Despite their large size, Goliath beetles are still able to fly.

Goliath beetles are found in the tropical rainforests of Africa.

Goliath Birdeater

The goliath birdeater is a member of the tarantula family Theraphosidae. This huge rainforest spider is the largest and heaviest spider in the world (although its leg-span, at 11 inches (28 cm) is only the second largest, after the giant huntsman spider). Its body reaches lengths of 4.75 in. (12 cm).

The Goliath birdeater lives deep in the rainforests of northern South America, including the Amazon rainforest. It hunts at night, preying on a variety of animals including large invertebrates and small vertebrates, including lizards and frogs. Despite its name, the species only rarely eats birds.

Green Anaconda

The green anaconda is the world’s heaviest species of snake, but not the longest (that’s the reticulated python). However, a green anaconda can still grow to over 5 metres in length!

This huge rainforest snake is an excellent swimmer, and is found in the lakes and rivers of the Amazon Rainforest.

Like all members of the family Boidae, the green anaconda is non-venomous. Instead, it relies on its squeezing ability to subdue its prey.

  • You can find out more about the green anaconda here: Green Anaconda Facts

Green Iguana

The green iguana is a large lizard that lives in the forests of Central and South America. Although it looks fierce, it mainly eats plants.

The species is arboreal (tree-dwelling). It is often found near water, and is an excellent swimmer.

The closely-related Lesser Antillean iguana, a species found in the rainforests of the Lesser Antilles islands in the Caribbean, is critically endangered .

  • You can find out more about iguanas here: Iguana Facts

Harpy Eagle

The harpy eagle is the largest bird of prey found in the rainforest.

Although it is one of the world’s biggest eagles, it’s wingspan is (relatively) small; this is an adaption for flying through the forest.

The harpy eagle is said to be the world’s most powerful bird of prey. It is capable of plucking mid-sized mammals such as monkeys and sloths from out of trees.

  • You can read more about the harpy eagle here: Harpy Eagle Facts


The hoatzin is a pheasant-shaped bird with a long body, broad tail, and a spiky crest on its head.

The hoatzin is an unusual bird for several reasons. Juvenile hoatzins have a claw at the ‘elbow’ joint of each of their wings. The species nests above water, and if threatened, the juveniles drop into the water. Using their claws, they are able to climb back into the nest once the danger has passed.

The species also has an unusual way of digesting its food, which consists largely of green leaves. The food is broken down by bacteria in a special area in the bird’s crop (the expandable storage area in a bird’s throat), in a similar way to that in which cows digest grass.

The fermenting leaves in the hoatzin’s crop give off an unpleasant aroma. Because of this, the species has the alternative name of ‘stinkbird’.

Howler Monkey

All fifteen species of howler monkey live in the rainforests of South and Central America. Howler monkeys live in groups known as ‘troops‘. There can be from 6 to 15 howler monkeys in a troop.

A howler monkey’s cry can be heard through 3 miles of rainforest. The monkeys use their loud voices to let rival troops know where they are (this way they don’t actually have to fight to keep their territories).

Despite the loud calls, some people keep howler monkeys as pets!

  • You can find out more about howler monkeys here: Howler Monkey Facts


Jaguars are the world’s third-largest cat species — only tigers and lions are bigger. Jaguars live in South American rain forests, where they are apex predators (i.e. top of the food chain).

Jaguars have extremely powerful jaws and are excellent swimmers – not even caimans are safe from these majestic predators!

  • Find out more about this rainforest predator here: Jaguar Facts.

King Vulture

The king vulture is a large bird that lives in the rainforests of Central and South America. It has black and white plumage and a strikingly-colored head and bill.

Like other vultures, it is primarily a scavenger. It feeds on carrion that it finds on the forest floor. Due to its size and strength it is able to prevent other scavenging birds from feeding on the carrion until it has had its fill.

Leafcutter Ant

They may be small, but leafcutter ants are some of the most amazing animals that live in rainforests.

These industrious insects build nests that are up to 30 m (98 ft.) across. These huge nests are home to over 8 million insects!

(There are many countries in the world whose human populations are smaller than the number of leaf cutter ants that live in just one nest!)

Perhaps even more amazingly, leafcutter ants grow their own food in special ‘fungus gardens‘ within their immense nests!

Long trails of leafcutter ants can often be seen carrying leaves from the rainforest canopy to their nest. The leaves are fed to the fungus, which in turn is fed to the ants’ larvae.

  • You can find out more about leaf cutter ants here Leafcutter Ant Facts


Lemurs are small primates found in the rainforests of Madagascar. Lemurs are ‘endemic‘ to Madagascar, which means that they’re found nowhere else on Earth!

There are around 100 species of lemur. The species shown in the photo above is a ring-tailed lemur. Like many lemurs, the ring-tailed lemur is endangered.

  • You can find out more about the ring-tailed lemur here: Ring Tailed Lemur Facts


Leopards are big cats found in Africa and parts of Asia. The rainforest is just one habitat in which this versatile animal is able to live; it’s equally at home in savannas, woodlands and grasslands.

The spots on a leopard’s coat are called ‘rosettes‘. One way of telling leopards and jaguars apart is by looking at their rosettes. A leopard’s rosettes are empty, whereas those of a jaguar are filled with smaller black spots. Leopards are also slightly smaller than jaguars.

Leopards are incredibly strong, and are known to carry their prey up trees. (They have to do this, otherwise lions and hyenas might try to steal it from them!)

Lovely Fairywren

The lovely fairywren is an Australian rainforest bird found in the northeast of the country. It often lives on the rainforest edge, and is frequently seen high in the rainforest canopy. The species lives in small family groups.

This colorful Australian bird is one of 11 species of fairywren, all of which are small, brightly-colored birds.


Macaws are members of the family Psittacidae, one of three families of parrots. Macaws are large, colorful birds with large bills and long tails. They can be told apart from other parrots by their featherless faces.

There are 19 species of macaw. Several of these, including the hyacinth, great green and scarlet macaw, are found in rainforests.

Like those of other forest-dwelling birds, the feet of macaws are zygodactyl; the outer two toes face forwards and the inner two toes face backwards. This helps the birds to climb and land on tree trunks.


The ocelot is a small wild cat found in South and Central America. The species is also occasionally seen as far north as Texas and Arizona.

Around the size of a bobcat, the ocelot is sometimes referred to as the ‘dwarf leopard’ on behalf of its spotted coat.

The ocelot is a nocturnal predator that rarely targets prey larger than rabbits and armadillos.

  • You can find out more about the ocelot here: Ocelot Facts


Orangutans are members of the great ape family, Hominidae – just like us! Orangutans live in rainforests on the Southeast Asian islands Borneo and Sumatra. The name ‘orangutan’ means ‘man of the forest’ in Malay.

Orangutans are the world’s largest arborial (tree-dwelling) animals. They spend up to 95% of their lives in the trees.

Sadly, all three species of orangutan are now critically endangered. This is mainly due to deforestation. Much of the orangutan’s natural habitat has been cleared to make way for palm oil plantations.

  • You can find out more about orangutans here: Orangutan Facts.


Piranhas are freshwater fish found in the lakes and rivers of South America. With powerful jaws tightly packed with sharp teeth, piranhas have a reputation for being dangerous predators.

This fearsome reputation isn’t entirely deserved. Piranhas aren’t top of the rainforest food chain, and are just as likely to end up as dinner for other animals.

Many piranhas, rather than being purely carnivorous, are actually omnivores who feed on plant matter as well as on meat.

Piranha attacks on humans are rare, and seldom result in serious injury.

There may be over 60 species of piranha (scientists are unsure of the exact number). The largest piranha species is the red-bellied piranha, which grows up to 50 cm (20 in) in length.

  • You can find out more about piranhas here: Piranha Facts.

Poison Dart Frog

Most of the 170 or so species of poison dart frog have brightly-coloured skin. This acts as a warning to potential predators that the frogs are poisonous.

Hunters from rainforest tribes used poison taken from the skin of poison dart frogs on the tips of their blowdarts.

The golden poison frog (Phyllobates terribilis) is one of the world’s most poisonous animals.

Poison dart frogs are found in Central and South American rainforests.

  • You can find out more about poison dart frogs here.

Rainforest Scops Owl

This rainforest owl lives in the rainforests of eastern Madagascar. With a wingspan of up to 54 cm (21 in.), it is one of the smaller owl species.

The rainforest scops owl appears in three color variations, brown, grey or reddish-brown. When threatened it raises two ear-like crests on its head.

Red Eyed Tree Frog

The red eyed tree frog is one of the best-known of all amphibians. Thanks to this little frog’s good looks it has become a symbol of the rainforest, and is often seen in magazines and newspapers.

When resting, the frog conceals its bright colors under its green body and closes its large red eyes, making it surprisingly difficult to spot.

These iconic frogs live in the canopy layer of Central American rainforests.

The red eyed tree frog’s bright colors are part of a defense mechanism called ‘startle coloration‘. The frog hopes that a quick flash of its bright red eyes will momentarily confuse any potential predators, giving it time to escape.

  • Learn more about red eyed tree frogs here.

Red Imported Fire Ant

The red imported fire ant is an ant in the genus Solenopsis. It is found in tropical areas of South America. The species is found in a number of habitats, including rainforests.

The species has spread beyond its original range, and is considered to be one of the world’s worst invasive species. It has been introduced to the United States and even to Australia via shipping containers.

Like all fire ants, the red imported fire ant can deliver a painful sting. The species is resilient to floods and droughts, and has even been seen amassing into floating, living ‘boats’ consisting of thousands of individuals.


Sloths are medium-sized rainforest mammals found in South and Central America. These fascinating animals spend nearly all of their lives hanging upside-down in trees.

Sloths move very slowly. They have a low metabolism (the rate at which the body uses energy). This is an adaptation for living on leaves, which contain very little energy. Moving slowly also helps sloths stay hidden from predators.

Sloths move so slowly that algae is able to grow in their fur. This gives sloths a green color which camouflages them among the trees.

  • You can find out more about sloths here: Sloth Facts

South American Lungfish

The South American lungfish is one of six species of lungfish alive today. Lungfish are fish that have retained certain characteristics of their ancestors, including the ability to breathe air. As their name suggests, lungfish have lungs, and can breathe without using their gills.

The South American lungfish is found in slow-moving rivers and streams in the Amazon Basin. It is a long, thin fish that can grow to over 1 meter (3.3 ft.) in length.

During the dry season, the South American lungfish is able to surround its body in mucous and survive buried in the mud, even if its river dries up.

Spider Monkey

It’s not difficult to see how spider monkeys got their name; their long limbs and tail make these agile primates look like giant spiders! Spider monkeys live in the rainforests of South America.

All seven species of Spider Monkey are now threatened; one is rated Vulnerable, four are Endangered, and two are Critically Endangered.

  • You can find out more about spider monkeys here: Spider Monkey Facts


Tapirs are large hoofed animals. They have long prehensile snouts which are used to grasp and manipulate foliage while foraging for food. (Prehensile means ‘adapted for grasping or holding’.)

Tapiridae, the family in which all 5 species of tapir are found, is one of three animal families that make up the group of animals known as odd-toed ungulates.

The other families in this group are the horse family (Equidae) and the rhinoceros family (Rhinocerotidae).

The only species of tapir found outside of the Americas is the Malayan tapir, which is found in Asia.

  • You can find out more about these rainforest animals here: Tapir Facts


Tarsiers are small primates that live in rainforests in Southeast Asian islands. They have extremely large eyes and long tails. (The eyes of some tarsier species are larger than their brains!) Tarsiers are adapted for jumping, and move around by leaping through the trees.

These nocturnal animals exist mainly on a diet of insects.

There is some confusion over the exact number of tarsier species. Currently, 11 species of tarsier are listed in the Catalogue of Life (a list of all of the world’s species), but other authorities recognize more or fewer species. All tarsiers are in the family Tarsiidae.

  • You can find out more about tarsiers here: Tarsier Facts


The tiger is the world’s largest cat species. It lives in a variety of habitats, including rainforests and a variety of other types of forest.

Tigers are found in several Asian countries, including India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. The species is also found in the southeast of Russia.

The tiger is an endangered species. It is estimated that there are only around 3,000 to 4,000 of these beautiful animals left in the wild. The main threats to tigers are habitat loss and poaching.

  • You can find out more about tigers here: Tiger Facts.


Toucans are a family of around 43 crow-sized birds found in Central and South America.

These distinctive birds are known for their large, colorful bills. Although a toucan’s bill looks strong, it is actually hollow and lightweight.

The toucan uses its long bill to reach food without having to fly or climb to another branch. The bill also helps the toucan stay cool by transferring its body heat to the surrounding air.

The keel-billed toucan, pictured above, lives in the canopy of Central American rainforests. It is primarily a frugivore (fruit-eater), although it will also eat a variety of animals, including snakes and the nestlings of other birds.

  • You can find out more about toucans here: Toucan Facts.

Vampire Bat

Bats are mammals whose arms have evolved into wings, allowing them to fly. There are 3 species of vampire bat: the common vampire bat, the hairy-legged vampire bat, and the white-winged vampire bat.

All vampires feed on the blood of other animals. Vampire bats know exactly where to bite their victims – they can use infrared radiation to see where the blood is flowing closest to the skin!

Vampire bats are found in the Americas. As well as being found in rainforests, they also live in woodlands and grasslands.

  • You can find out more about vampire bats here.

White-Lipped Treefrog

  • Scientific name: Litoria infrafrenata
  • Conservation status: Least Concern
  • Where found: Australia

This Australian amphibian is the world’s largest species of tree frog, and Australia’s largest native frog. The species is also found in Papua New Guinea.

Tree frogs are amphibians in the family Hylidae. Tree frogs are named for their arboreal (tree-dwelling) lifestyle.

The white-lipped tree frog is found in north-east Queensland, and is present in the Daintree Rainforest. The species is also found in urban areas, and occasionally gets transported hundreds of miles to other states in banana boxes.

You can find out more about the white-lipped tree frog here: White-Lipped Tree Frog Facts

Rainforest Animals List: Conclusion

We hope that you’ve enjoyed finding out about these amazing rainforest animals. As you can see, rainforests are home to a wide and varied range of species. This ancient habitat is vitally important for sustaining the world’s biodiversity.

What’s your favorite rainforest animal? Are there any animals we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments below!

The animals on this list represent only a fraction of the species that live in the world’s rainforests; you can discover more animals on the pages listed below.

  • Discover amazing rainforest mammals here: Rainforest Mammals List
  • Discover amazing rainforest reptiles here: Rainforest Reptiles List
  • Discover amazing rainforest insects here: Rainforest Insects List
  • Discover amazing rainforest monkeys here: Rainforest Monkeys List

You can find out more about rainforests on the following pages:

  • View / download a FREE Rainforest Animals worksheet for this page: Free Printable Worksheets
  • Find out more about the world’s rainforests at our main Rainforests Page.
  • Interested in the Amazon Rainforest in particular? You’ll find pictures and facts about its animals and plants here: What is in the Amazon Rainforest?
  • Rainforest plants are just as exciting as rainforest animals! Find out why here: Rainforest Plants List.
  • Download Active Wild Rainforest Workbooks.
  • Find out more about the animal kingdom here: Animals: The Ultimate Guide.

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