Animal Life

Life in the canopy

Rainforests harbour a bewildering number of animal species. Because there is little undergrowth, most animals live on the epiphyte-laden branches of the canopy where they can find food.
Here, insects abound and an incredibly large number of birds and small frogs feed on them. Tree-living lizards, chameleons and snakes in turn feed on the smaller animals. Hummingbirds and sunbirds sip nectar from flowers.

Large, colourful forest birds with huge bills for cracking and eating tough forest fruits include the toucans (in the Americas) and hornbills (in Africa and Asia). Herbivorous mammals that live in the forest canopy include flying squirrels, monkeys, and sloths. Some mammals, like tree pangolins and tamanduas eat arboreal ants and termites. Carnivores adapted to life in the trees include the jaguar and leopard.

From tree to tree
Canopy animals have developed some ingenious ways of travelling about the forest. Flying lemurs and flying squirrels do not actually fly, but have have broad flaps of skin between their front and hind limbs that enable them to glide from tree to tree to escape predators or to find food. South American monkeys, opposums and tree porcupines have prehensile tails that act like an extra limb to help them swing from branch to branch.

Ground dwellers
Rainforest soil is covered with a thin layer of fallen leaves, twigs and humus. This layer also teems with life: termites and ants, spiders, mites, snails, and beetles make their home here. The mammals include small deer, antelopes like duikers, pigs, tapirs, and tigers and other members of the cat family.
Flying Frog. / ©: WWF
Flying Frog.
© WWF

Wildlife in Tropical Forests

Spider Monkey. / ©: WWF
Spider Monkey.
© WWF

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