Did you know that 50 percent of the world's plant and animal species live in the tropical rainforests? Tropical rainforests are in the parts of Africa, Asia and South America that surround the Earth's equator. Another type of rainforest is a temperate rainforest, which is cooler in temperature and has less rainfall than a tropical rainforest. Both types of rainforest are home to many different animals, birds and insects.
Rainforest Animals Facts
One of the most interesting rainforest facts for kids is that there are more insects than animals in the rainforest. While the rainforest can be a difficult environment for creatures to survive in due to the increasing loss of their natural habitat and competition for food and sunlight, insects live in every part of the rainforest. They favor mossy areas, decomposing dead plant matter and tree bark. There are more small animals than large animals in the rainforest, and more plant-eating (vegetarian) animals than meat-eating (carnivorous) animals.
Animals in Tropical Rainforests
Tropical rainforests are split into four zones: the emergent (top) layer, the canopy, the understory and the forest floor. Most tropical rainforest animals live in the canopy, which contains trees 60 to 150 feet tall, because food is abundant there. The tropical rainforest animals list includes the chimpanzee, tree frog, monkey, parrot, jaguar, gorilla, Indian cobra, orangutan, leopard and iguana.
The largest tropical rainforest in the world is the Amazon rainforest in South America, with approximately 3.5 million square kilometers (350 million hectares) remaining in Brazil, the largest Amazonian country.
Animals in Temperate Rainforests
Temperature rainforests are found along the Pacific coast of North America, as well as in New Zealand, Europe and Japan. Temperate rainforests have the same zones as tropical rainforests, minus the emergent layer. Most temperate rainforest animals live on or near the forest floor, as the trees above offer protection from the wind and rain.
Animals living in temperate rainforests include the kangaroo, wombat, elk, bear, puma (mountain lion), gray wolf, Siberian tiger and snow leopard.
Endangered Rainforest Animals
Many rainforest animals are endangered, classified "at risk" or have even become extinct, largely due to the removal of trees and forests (deforestation). It is estimated that an area the size of two football fields is destroyed every second in the rainforest. Tropical rainforest animals on the critically endangered list include the gorilla, brown spider monkey, jaguar, orangutan, poison dart frog and yellow-crested cockatoo. Sadly, these species face a high risk of extinction in the near future.
Temperate rainforest animals are even more at risk – over 50 of the world's temperate rainforests have already been destroyed. The endangered temperate rainforest animals list includes the bison, elephant, elk, turtle, gorilla and red wolf.
Growing Threats to Rainforests
The biggest threat to rainforests is deforestation. On a small scale, forests are cleared to free up land for crops or grazing cattle. On a larger scale, intensive agriculture replaces rainforest with large cattle pastures and commercial logging cuts down trees to sell as pulp or timber. When forests are removed and trees are cut down, the animals of the rainforest lose their natural habitat. Deforestation has also been linked to drought, because forests influence localized rainfall patterns. If deforestation continues at the current rate, we will have no rainforests at all in 100 years.
- Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies: Land Use and Agriculture in the Amazon
- The Guardian: We Are Destroying Rainforests So Quickly They May Be Gone in 100 Years
- Space Radiation Lab at California Institute of Technology: Animals of the Rainforest
- University of California, Santa Barbara: Rainforest
- Vikrant Deshpande/iStock/Getty Images