Types of Animals in the Rainforest

By John Lindell
The tapir is an animal of Asian and South American rainforests.
tapir image by Earl Robbins from Fotolia.com

The Enchanted Learning website notes that the rainforests of the world exist between 23.5 degrees latitude north and 23.5 degrees latitude south. Rainforests occur in South America, Australia, Southeast Asia, Africa and in India. The wildlife that inhabits these lush and humid rainforests includes birds, mammals and reptiles.

Large Mammals

Many types of larger mammals have the ability to thrive in a rainforest environment. Among the mammals that fit this description are the capybara, sloth, jaguar, tiger, okapi, hippopotamus and various antelopes. The tapir is a rainforest mammal, with subspecies of the animal living in both the South American jungle and the rainforests of nations such as Thailand and Indonesia. The tapir has a flexible snout that combines the animal’s upper lip and its nose; this snout helps the tapir pull leaves from branches and tear up the ground looking for tubers and roots. The largest tapirs can weigh as much as 700 pounds. The jaguar is a predator of the tapir in South America, while the tiger is a major enemy of tapirs in Asian settings. Tapirs are fond of the water, often staying in the shallows and consuming aquatic vegetation.


Primates find a rainforest ecosystem a perfect fit for their lifestyle of living in trees. Tarsiers, orangutans, gorillas, mandrills, spider monkeys, howler monkeys and chimpanzees are all examples of such rainforest primates. One interesting species is the bonobo--a primate often called the pygmy chimpanzee. The bonobo lives in the Congo rainforest of Africa. This creature can stand 3 feet tall and weigh as much as 110 pounds in its natural setting. The bonobo differs from the chimp in that it is thinner, less afraid of water, able to subsist on a mostly vegetarian diet and the animal has less difficulty walking upright than chimps do. The mammal will look for foods such as fruit in the rain forest canopy, frequently sharing its find with others of its species.


Profile shot of a Cassowary image by wulfpaw from Fotolia.com

The rainforest is alive with birds, both on the ground and in the canopy of the trees. Species such as the quetzal, Congo peafowl, kookaburra, parrot, macaw and hummingbird abound. The largest of the rainforest birds is the cassowary, a native of the rainforests of New Guinea and Australia. The cassowary cannot fly, as it weighs up to 130 pounds and can be as tall as 6.5 feet. The cassowary female is larger than the male; both possess strong legs that they use to defend themselves with, kicking at an enemy to disable it. Unlike the ostrich, the cassowary features a hard crest on its head that resembles a helmet. Cassowaries eat mostly fruit, with animals such as frogs, snakes and insects rounding out the bird’s diet. The Wet Tropics website reports cassowaries are vital to the rainforest ecosystem, as they are able to distribute the seeds of as many as 70 different kinds of trees.


The rainforest is one of the biomes that reptiles populate in great numbers. Caimans, crocodiles, boas, poison arrow frogs, anacondas, iguanas and frilled lizards are just a few of these reptiles. One snake, the carpet python, lives in the rainforests in Australia, New Guinea and Indonesia. The carpet python takes its name from its coloration, with patterns that reminded people of those of carpets. The snake constricts its prey, such as birds and rodents, tightening its coils around a victim until it can breathe no more. The carpet python female will lay eggs, remaining wrapped around the cluster until they hatch.

About the Author

John Lindell has written articles for "The Greyhound Review" and various other online publications. A Connecticut native, his work specializes in sports, fishing and nature. Lindell worked in greyhound racing for 25 years.