WWF UK Blog  

8 Amazon animals of Olympic proportions


Have you seen the BBC Olympic trailer? We have and we love it here at WWF. As the 2016 Olympics is almost upon us, we take a closer look at the animals in the impressively animated trailer, as it celebrates the spirit of the games but also the amazing diversity of Brazil’s wildlife and exuberant forest.

The thing we like about the video is that it acknowledges that many of the athletes’ traits that we so admire – speed, strength, agility – are also embodied by amazing animals such as the jaguar, armadillo, caiman and the sloth. Hang on a minute…the sloth? OK, perhaps the trailer over-eggs some of the sloth’s abilities, especially in the speed department!

If you haven’t yet seen it, take a look at the BBC Olympic trailer. We’ve included some extra facts on each of the animals. Try to keep up if you can!

All of the species in the video, in our opinion, are gold medal winners. Here’s our take on why we think so:

Black panther and jaguar: Gold for strength

Jaguar walking through the forest © WWF-UKJaguar walking through the forest © WWF-UK

Did you know that the black panther and the jaguar are actually the same species? Its just genetics that can make the difference to their coloration. In an international competition between cat species, a cheetah would beat the jaguar in a speed race, as the jaguar’s forested home doesn’t lend itself to speed in the same way as the African plains. However, the jaguar is first among cats for the strength of its bite, as it’s more powerful than any other big cat. It can even bite through the hard shells of river turtles.

Black caiman: Gold for predation

Black caiman © WWF-UKBlack caiman © WWF-UK

The black caiman is the Amazon’s largest predator. It has a wide diet including fish, frogs and mammals that visit the riverbanks, such as the chunky capybara. The Amazon’s other top predator, the jaguar, can be predator or prey to the black caiman; a real clash of the titans. The caiman is also king of the come-back, having been driven to near extinction by hunting, its populations are now recovering where conservation efforts are in place.

Three-toed sloth: Gold for being, well…..a sloth!

Brown-throated three-toed sloth, Amazon river, Maynas Province, Loreto region, Peru © Charles (Chuck) Peterson / FlickrBrown-throated three-toed sloth, Amazon river, Maynas Province, Loreto region, Peru © Charles (Chuck) Peterson / Flickr

Great tree-climbers and hanger-oners, the sloth comes last in the speed department. They are so slow that algae even grow on their fur! Spending most of their time in trees, they do occasionally venture onto the ground, where their slow reactions make them vulnerable. A recent camera trap video from Colombia of a sloth at a watering hole, showed the sloth spotting a harmless Paca and tries to make a ‘swift’ get away.

Giant anteater: Gold for the longest tongue

In their search for ants and termites, the anteater uses its sharp claws to fend off some predators, but mainly to break into anthills… and then its award-winning tongue comes into action. It can extend 60cm from its mouth, and can be flicked in and out up to 160 times per minute! Our community monitors captured a camera-trap video of one in the Colombian Amazon recently.

Red howler monkey: Gold for shouting loudest

Red howler monkey © WWF-UKRed howler monkey © WWF-UK

In the BBC Olympic trailer, the howlers are playing basket with a large fruit – they are certainly champion seed dispersers. But the gold medal has to be for their loud voices, that can be heard over three miles away. Check out this sound recording of a howler monkey and the incredible noise they make.

Armadillo: Gold for the thickest skin

Nine-banded long-nosed armadillo © WWF-UKNine-banded long-nosed armadillo © WWF-UK

There are several species of armadillo and they all have bony plates that cover their backs, heads, legs, and tail. They are the only living mammals that wear such shells.

Maned wolf: Gold for uniqueness

Maned wolf © WWF-UKManed wolf © WWF-UK

This unusual canine species is neither fox nor wolf, in fact its in a genus all to itself (Chrysocyon). It’s the largest canine species in South America, and has extremely tall thin legs that have earned it the nick-name of the fox-on-stilts. It lives in Brazil’s Cerrado region, so perhaps its long legs helps it see above the tall grasses that grow there. An important part of its diet is fruit. Unfortunately, the loss of its habitat to crops such as soy is threatening this unique species.

Brazil nut tree: Gold for shot-put

Brazil nut collecting © Michael Gunther / WWF-UKBrazil nut collecting © Michael Gunther / WWF-UK

In the BBC Olympic trailer, the anteater is throwing what looks to be a Brazil nut pod. 24 Brazil nuts grow within this cannon-ball sized husk that weighs up to 2kg. As one of the tallest trees in the forest, one of these pods can drop from a height of 50 meters, that’s more than twice our shot put record! Its also enough to cause significant damage if it lands on some unsuspecting forest inhabitant below. Perhaps that’s why they’re called howler monkeys?

Brazil: Gold for rainforests

Christ the redeemer statue, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil © Marco Antônio Teixeira/WWF-BrasilChrist the redeemer statue, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil © Marco Antônio Teixeira/WWF-Brasil

Brazil has the largest remaining expanse of rainforest in the world (Amazon and Atlantic rainforests), and these forests contain around 60,000 different species of plants and mammals. New species are still being discovered every single week. Not only is the rainforest a treasure-trove of biodiversity, it plays a crucial role in our global climate

As the games begin, we wish the might of the Amazon to the athletes, and as the Amazon is one of our priority places for conservation action and with the region facing many challenges, we thought the below video may help explain this in more detail.

How you can win gold for the Amazon

You can support our work in the Amazon region by adopting a jaguar

Related posts