More than half of all animals on Earth are indigenous to, or come from, rainforests, and scientists are still discovering new ones there all the time. As a result of deforestation, or the destruction of forests due to logging, building or agricultural needs, many of these animals are in danger of disappearing. People all over the world work hard to protect these forests so the animals there never lose their homes.
Facts about Rainforests
A forest is a rainforest if it receives 80 inches or more of rain each year. Rainforests are on every continent in the world except Antarctica, even North America. Rainforests come in two types: temperate and tropical. Tropical rainforests, or "jungles," are found in the tropics where it is hot. Temperate rainforests are in areas north or south of the tropics. The animal and plant species in rainforests often create relationships in which they help or benefit one another in some way. This is called a "symbiotic relationship."
Animals in Tropical Rainforests
Examples of tropical rainforest animals include the brightly coloured poison dart frogs of Central and South America, the carnivorous piranhas of South America, and the sharp-billed toucans, also of Central and South America. One of the more unusual rainforest residents is the sloth. Often called one of the "laziest" animals on Earth, sloths are known for their clown-like faces and extremely slow movements. Some may even stay in one tree for years.
Animals in Temperate Rainforests
Examples of animals in the temperate rainforests of North America include grizzly bears, spotted owls and wolves. The bald eagle, with its impressive wingspan (66 to 96 inches) and status as the national symbol of the United States, is another rainforest resident. Animals in Japan's Taiheiyo rainforests include snow monkeys, mink and otter, while snow leopards and Siberian tigers roam in Russian temperate rainforests. Koalas, possums and kangaroos inhabit the temperate rainforests of Australia and New Zealand.
According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), an endangered animal is one that faces a high risk of extinction in the near future. Numerous rainforest animals are categorised as endangered or even critically endangered. For example, South America's gigantic anaconda snake, Asia's Bengal tiger and the Tasmanian devil are all endangered rainforest dwellers, while the mountain gorilla of Africa is an example of a critically endangered one.
Growing Threats to Rainforests
Deforestation continues to pose a huge threat to rainforest animals. According to the Nature Conservancy, more than 56,000 square miles of rainforest are lost every year. The World Wildlife Federation predicts that if deforestation continues as it has been in the Amazon rainforest, 55 per cent of its rainforests could be gone by 2030. This would be catastrophic for the animals of these forests, many of which are threatened.