Brazil’s is famous across the globe for its biodiversity. A recent survey even showed that no country has more tree species than the Latin American giant. But in this article, we’ll focus more on the animals you can find in Brazil. Some are weird, yes, but others are pretty cool. It would be impossible to cover all of Brazil’s diverse fauna, which includes 116,000 species, so we’ve just chosen 9 of our favorites. Use our comment section to suggest more animals that you think should make the list!
Anaconda (Eunectes murinus, E.notaeus, E.deschauenseei)
Brazil is home to three types of anacondas: green, yellow, and dark-spotted. Giant anacondas have become meme generators. Back in September, British newspaper Daily Mail has published a story based on fake rumors of a giant, 400-kg anaconda found in Brazil.
Anacondas are up to 9m long and can weigh up to 70kg. Forget about the giant man-eating monsters you’ve seen in Hollywood movies, this one’s for real.
Amazon Jaguar (Panthera onca)
This majestic animal once lived across the entire American continent but has been listed as an endangered species since 2003. Jaguars require vast environments to survive by hunting other animals. The expansion of economic activity has dramatically reduced their habitat over the last few decades.
In Brazil, the Amazon Jaguar has practically disappeared in the Northeastern, Southeastern, and Southern regions.
Pygmy marmoset (Cebuella pygmaea)
Native to the Amazon Basin, this is the world’s smallest monkey and one of the smallest primates, weighing just over 100 grams (3.5oz). More than 80 percent of the pygmy marmoset lives in groups of 3 to 8 individuals, led by an alpha male.
They are able to turn their heads at 180-degree angles – an important skill to spot predators in the forest.
Pink Amazon River Dolphin (Inia geoffrensis)
Known in Brazil as boto, the Amazon dolphin is one of the world’s five river dolphin species – and arguably the most intelligent of them. This species, however, is also extremely endangered.
The construction of hydroelectric dams in the Amazon basin is the leading cause of death among botos. The dams alter the rivers’ ecosystem, changing the reproductive cycle of fish species – which are food for the dolphins.
In Amazon communities, there is a legend that the pink dolphin can transform itself into an attractive young man. He then seduces young virgins, getting them pregnant. That is, of course, the most plausible explanation for children out of the wedlock.
Three-banded Armadillo (Tolypeutes matacus)
This special type of armadillo is found in the wetlands of South America (Brazil’s Mato Grosso, Eastern Bolivia, and the Paraguayan Chaco). Brazilians call it tatu-bola, or “ball-shaped armadillo.”
That’s because these animals can completely enclose themselves in their own shell by rolling into a ball. When Brazil hosted the 2014 World Cup, this kind of armadillo was the official mascot. Unfortunately, it is also under threat of extinction.
Piranhas (Characidae spp.)
Due to their particular flesh-eating habits, piranhas are the best-known Brazilian fish species. These fish are quite large, at around 14-26cm. Despite their reputation for being fierce predators, piranhas are served as a delicacy in the Brazilian Amazon.
Brazilian tapir (Tapirus terrestris)
The largest surviving native terrestrial mammals in the Amazon, tapirs are excellent swimmers and divers. They also move quickly on land, even mountainous terrains. In Brazil, the animal is called anta. Its name has become a synonym of stupidity. But this species is no means stupid.
As the zoologist Mario Rollo told the magazine Mundo Estranho, anta became an insult mainly due to the physical weirdness of the animal rather than its intelligence. Indeed, the tapir is a pretty weird animal. It has the body of a giant pig, horse hoofs and ears, and a nose that resembles an atrophied elephant nose.
Capybara (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris)
The largest rodent in the world is a close relative to guinea pigs. These pacific animals populate the Brazilian Pantanal and can even be found in some cities. An adult animal weighs up to 80kg and measures roughly 1.20m. Capybaras are great swimmers and can remain submerged for a long time to escape predators.
Bald Uakari (Cacajao calvus)
This rare monkey species is under the threat of extinction and lives in the Brazilian and Peruvian Amazon. The Uakaris don’t live long in captivity. They feed off insects, nuts, seeds, and fruits. They can be found in groups between 10 and 40 individuals. Some groups can have up to 100 monkeys.
According to the World Conservation Union, the Uakari population has lowered by at least 30 percent over the last three decades due to hunting and habitat loss. In 1999, the World Bank launched the Pilot Program to Conserve the Brazilian Rainforest, budgeting a total of $350 million into conservation programs.