Your once in-a-lifetime adventure to the world’s largest and richest rainforest will be packed with wildlife highlights from start to finish. Here are a few of the most exciting species found in the Amazon jungle.
These graceful river giants, which attain lengths of 8ft (if you include their long tails) and weights of 70lb, are the largest member of the Mustelid family. Only 5,000 remain in the wild (in an area the size of the Lower 48!) but the oxbow lakes of Tambopata in South-Eastern Peru are one of the best places in the world to see them. The sociable otters who live in groups of up to 20 individuals are expert fishermen who eat approximately 3 kilograms of fish every day. Each otter is born with a uniquely shaped patch of cream-colored fur on its throat – much like a human fingerprint this can be used by rangers and scientists to identify individuals. They’re also extremely vocal animals…as you will find out on your Amazon adventure.
To think that one of the 7 deadly sins is named after the cutest animal around… The brown-throated sloth is the most common of the three-toed sloth species, and you’ll have a very good chance of spying one in the Peruvian Amazon (they don’t move very quickly which means you’ll be able to get a good look through your binoculars). An adult sloth is about the same size as a domestic cat, and its brown fur often appears green due to the algae that grows on it. Sloths are among the slowest animals on the planet and although they are able to swim, they are extremely inept on land. Their slow metabolism means they can take an entire month to digest a single meal of twigs and leaves – a fact which means they only have to descend from the canopy once a week to defecate.
This is both the most common and the largest of the four anaconda species that occur only in South and Central America. Anacondas can reach lengths of 17ft and weights of 215lb, making them the thickest and heaviest snakes on the planet. (The title of longest snake goes to the reticulated python). Anacondas thrive in semi-aquatic environments such as swamps and marshes and live on a diet that includes fish, birds and small mammals. All of the anaconda species are non-venomous (they use constriction to kill their prey) and despite what Hollywood will have you believe there’s no evidence of humans being eaten by anacondas. There’s a very good chance your guide will be able to point out an anaconda – especially if you visit in April or May when the snakes form “breeding balls”, where up to twelve males will try to mate with one female!
You’ll hear these large primates before you see them: their guttural roar can be heard up to 3 miles away, which sadly makes them soft targets for hunters. Weighing up to 17lbs, cotos as they are known locally, are one of the largest monkey species in South America. In total there are 15 species of howler monkey in South America, but only one is found in Peru. Make sure you’ve got the volume turned up when you watch this video…
Full disclosure. It is highly unlikely that you will see a jaguar, the king of the jungle, on your trip to the Amazon. But it is still a possibility: on May 6 2017 a group of tourists on a nocturnal river cruise at Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica (one of our most popular lodges) had an extremely close encounter with one of these majestic animals. These large (they average 200lb), solitary, stalk-and-ambush predators play a key role in regulating the jungle ecosystem and camera traps are showing that there are more of them out there than we previously thought. About 6% of jaguars are melanistic meaning that they have a color variation which makes them appear almost entirely black (you can still make out their spots if you look closely). Commonly known as black panthers, these enigmatic creatures are actually the same species as their black and gold brothers.
This wildlife list was made with Puerto Maldonado lodges in mind. If you choose to go on a cruise from Iquitos you may encounter different species, including pink river dolphins and manatees. Find out more about the lodge and cruise experiences in Exploring the Peruvian Amazon.
Explorer’s Journal: Into the jungle with Julia
Jungle cruise: Exploring the Amazon rainforest aboard the luxury Aqua Nera
Lodge versus cruise: exploring the Peruvian Amazon