Rain forests are the most diverse ecosystems on the planet. Their resources supply food, water and oxygen to the world around them far beyond their boundaries. Rain forests contain the largest source of fresh water in the world, and never-before-seen species of plants and animals are still being discovered in these vast unexplored forests.
Hundreds of species of birds live in the rain forest, and most of the tropical birds that make their way into the pet trade originated in the rain forest. However, to protect native populations, local governments have placed bans on exporting wild birds to be sold as pets. Macaws, cockatoos, conures, amazons and other varieties of birds, commonly kept as pets, are now bred domestically, which protects the native populations.
The rain forest boasts some of the most unusual mammals on the planet. The slow moving sloth, the vegetarian tapir and the black-and-white ruffed lemur are all native to the rain forest. Additionally, the rain forest also has the highest number of big cats, including jaguars, ocelots and leopards. However, the most common mammals in the rain forest are bats and rodents.
Reptiles and Amphibians
Reptiles and amphibians can be found in a rainbow of colors in the rain forest, but because of the vivid colors that surround them, these brightly colored creatures still manage to blend into their environment. Some species, such as the blueberry poison arrow frog, the red poison-dart frog and the yellow-banded poison frog are not only beautiful, but poisonous as well. The majority of snakes and lizards in the rain forest are not poisonous. Constrictors are the most common type of snakes, but they are seldom seen by humans because of their ability to blend into their environment. Chameleons have the ability to not only blend into their environment but to change their appearance to mimic the colors around them.
Most of the species native to the rain forest are insects. Butterflies, army and leaf-cutter ants, beetles and numerous other insects play a valuable role in the rain forest ecosystem. These small creatures prune foliage, assist in the decomposition of dead matter and aid in the pollination of the vast plant life for which the rain forest is valued.
Rain forest animals could not survive without the abundant plant life they depend on for food and shelter. Many species of plants are found only in the rain forest. Organizations worldwide are promoting sustainable agriculture to encourage economic growth in these regions without damaging the delicate ecosystem. The medical industry harvests plants found only in the rain forest for their medicinal properties, including some used for the treatment of cancer.
- Tom Brakefield/Stockbyte/Getty Images