What types of mammals can I see?
The Amazon is home to a great variety of mammalian life. Although many species are reclusive or nocturnal, most eventually cross, bathe, drink or otherwise visit the rivers for one reason or another. Some make the rivers their homes. Fishermen are very often treated to sightings because they spend their day at the interface of river and jungle. Commonly sighted Amazon mammalian life includes the species discussed in the sections to follow ;
The Oddballs - Among the most unique of Amazonian animals are the tapir (anta) and the capybara. The Brazilian tapir (Tapirus terrestris), a relative of the rhinoceros, is a large ungulate inhabiting jungle watercourses throughout
Amazonia. Feeding on fruits and leaves, this big, strange, short-haired creature can sometimes be seen walking along banks or swimming across rivers. Even more aquatic, and often sighted in similar habitats, the capybara is the world's largest rodent, often exceeding 4 feet in length and 120 pounds. Other large rodents include the ‘paca’ (or agouti), a smaller cousin to the capybara (Hydrochaeris hydrochaeris) that feeds on vegetation along riverbanks at night. The somewhat smaller ‘cutia’ (Dasyprocta sp.) is more often encountered on jungle trails. All of theses species have learned to be very wary of man because of their popularity as menu items for the local population.
The Cats - The most thrilling and one of the rarer sightings in the Amazon is the jaguar (Felis onca). Largely nocturnal and solitary, the great cat of the Amazon is now on the list of endangered species. The onca's only predator, man, has severely reduced the population of these magnificent animals in order to make profits from their beautiful spotted pelts. Several other, smaller species of cat are significantly more common and easily seen. The ocelot (Felis pardalis) and the margay (Felis wiedeii), both under 45 pounds, range throughout the Amazon. Although primarily nocturnal, sightings of these cats often occur in areas of dense cover. The puma (Puma concolor) and jaguarundi (Felis yagouroundi), although not as common and not riverine in their habits, are also found here.
Up in the Trees - If you turn your attention up into the trees at the edges of the rivers, you can spot monkeys and sloths. Over forty species of monkey are found in Amazonia. Ranging from the good-sized howler monkey (up to 35 pounds) down to the tiny marmosets and tamarins (weighed in ounces), New World monkeys share one common characteristic, they all have tails. Look quickly, because their acrobatic skills allow them to move rapidly through their arboreal environment. Sloths (pregisa), on the other hand, hardly move at all. The three-toed sloth, and its larger two-toed cousin, may take days to move from one tree to the next. Once you've spotted one, you can observe it at your leisure.
In the Water - The rivers are home to two species of fresh water dolphin and a giant manatee. The large, pink ‘boto’ (Inia geoffrensis) is a most unusual looking dolphin with its long snout, external ears and flexible neck. The smaller, gray ‘tucuxi’ (Sotalia fluviatilis) looks more like our idea of Flipper, the TV star. Both species are widespread, not hunted, and very commonly seen by anglers. Swimmers are often treated to curious tucuxi circling and peeking at them when they take a dip in the river. The Amazon manatee (Trichechus inunguis), a giant reaching over 1000 pounds was formerly endangered because of hunting for its meat, oil and hide but is now protected.
Giant otters or ariranha’ (Pteronura brasiliensis), grow as big as a man, inhabiting the lagoons of Amazonia. Although also on the endangered list, they are fairly commonly seen by anglers. They forage in groups and won't hesitate to let you know, by splashing and barking, just how unhappy they are to have you invading their territory. A smaller species of otter, locally called ‘lontra’ (Lutra longicaudis) is very widespread and also often sighted.
On the Banks - Anglers can also see two species of armadillo, including the Amazon giant, ‘tatu’. Two species of anteater are found in Amazonia. The giant anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla) is totally terrestrial and its smaller cousin (Tamandua tetradactyla) is mostly arboreal. Closely resembling small wild pigs, peccaries (Tayasu tajasu) roam Amazonia in small herds of twenty or so individuals. They can occasionally be seen rooting at rivers edge or even swimming in the river. Three species of Amazon deer or ‘viado’ (Mazama sp./Odocoileus virgineanus), the raccoon-like ‘coatimundi’ (Nasua nasua) , bush ‘dogs’ (Speothos venaticus) and the 'Tayra,' (Eira barbara) a Labrador retriever-sized, mink-like member of the weasel family, also often treat the visitor with a sighting.