Large Animals in the Rain Forest

By Jen Kim
Jaguars, the Amazon rain forest
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Rain forests are home to more than 50 percent of the world's plant and animal population, according to Mongabay. Rain forests are dense forests in tropical climates prone to frequent rainfall. The animals that inhabit the rain forest have special adaptations which allow them to live in these extreme conditions. While much of rain forest wildlife, such as butterflies and birds, are smaller animals, there are a few larger animals that live on the humid rain forest floor.

Jaguars

The jaguar is the largest South American cat and is typically found in remote regions of the Amazon rain forest in South and Central America. Jaguars are carnivorous mammals that can live up to 15 years. They prefer wet and dense habitats with soft ground. Jaguars tend to settle in cave dens and live near near fresh water sources. Jaguars are also quick and stealthy predators, climbing tall trees to catch wild prey, such as monkeys, tapir and reptiles. These cats have tan or orange coats with distinctive black spots, sometimes called "rosettes" because they look like roses. They also tend to live alone and mark individual territories with their waste or by clawing trees. Jaguars are endangered because of human poaching and because of rain forest deforestation.

Bengal Tigers

Native to India, Bengal tigers are the most common tiger species and make up about half the world's tiger population. These tigers roam the swampy lowland areas of Asian rain forests throughout India, Nepal, Bhutan and Mayanmar. Tigers prefer the rain forest because of the plentiful food supply and are carnivorous mammals that can survive up to three weeks without food. Their diets consist mainly of smaller mammals, such as boar, monkeys, birds and snakes. Bengal Tigers can climb trees with ease, a helpful skill when catching prey, and are also very strong swimmers.

Okapis

Okapis are the only living relatives of the giraffe family and live in the rain forest floors of the African Congo. They have black and white striped hindquarters and front legs that resemble zebra stripes. These stripes are believed to act as camouflage and protect them from rain forest predators, such as tigers. Okapis tend to be solitary and wary animals and have a highly developed sense of hearing. Because their diet consists mainly of leaves, Okapis thrive in the lower level of the tropical forest where they can reach leaves in the shrubs and liana. They are difficult to find in the wild and were only discovered by humans in 1900.

Southern Cassowaries

The Australian cassowary is a large flightless bird related to the emu and the ostrich. They are a key species in Australia's Wet Tropics rain forests and play an important role in its ecosystem. Their primary role is to disperse fruit seeds on the forest floor. With a diet that consists of more than 150 different fruit species and a digestive tract that preserves the seed intact, these birds literally litter the rain forest floor with already composted seeds. The birds have thick, quilled black feathers, which keep their bodies dry and protect them from thorny plants. They make nests on the rain forest floor out of leaves and grass. Cassowaries are capable swimmers and usually shy and solitary. However, they will attack other animals and people if they or their chicks are threatened. They need large open areas of rain forest to survive and are threatened by deforestation, tourism and dogs.

About the Author

Since 2008, Jen Kim has been a professional writer and blogger, working for national publications such as Psychology Today and Chicago Tribune affiliates. She holds a Master of Science in journalism from Northwestern University.