Thanks to its vast expanses of the Andes mountains and the Amazon rainforest, Peru features some of the world’s most brilliant biodiversity, with close to 2,000 species of birds and hundreds of species of reptiles and mammals. In fact, many of these species are endemic to Peru, meaning they can only be found here. Plus, there are even a few hardy animals that have adapted to life in the thin air of the soaring Andes mountains.
Wildlife in the Amazon
A river cruise or a stay at an ecological lodge will acquaint you with some of the species common to the Amazon jungle. Caiman (similar to crocodiles) and serpentine anacondas that patrol these waters can be safely seen from your canoe. Pink river dolphins are a unique sight as you make your way down the network of rivers that wind through the rainforest. If you want a truly special experience, then you might consider fishing… for piranhas! But don’t worry, although they are carnivorous, they don’t really have a taste for human flesh like their reputation indicates.
Wildlife in the Peruvian Andes
Despite harsh conditions, sparse vegetation, and thin air, there are several incredible species that have adapted their bodies to life in the Andean paramo. Perhaps the most recognized of these animals are the llama and the alpaca, pack animals known for their soft fur and good meat. Other mammals you might spot as you trek through the highlands are the Andean fox, the spectacled bear, or the tricky opossums. The mountains are also home to the smallest of the tapir species – the endangered mountain tapir – which is the only tapir that does not live in the tropical rainforest. Pumas can also be seen prowling through the paramo.
Birds – There’s no question that Peru is one of the world's best destinations for avid birders. Vibrant colors, distinct calls, curious mating dances, and other unique traits and behaviors distinguish these avian species. Parrots and parakeets are among the most common, which can be seen flocking to the clay licks, where they absorb some of the most important antioxidants and sodium to balance their acidic fruit diet. Other birds that can be seen flitting through the canopy are toucans, various hummingbird species, rainbow colored jays, and a stunning mix of other birds. An expert naturalist guide can help you spot and identify many of these. The king of birds – the scavenging Andean Condor, with an impressive wingspan around 10 feet, making it one of the largest birds of flight in the world. Actually, because of its size, it depends on the windy environment of the mountains and the air currents to soar. Peru also has several species of native highland hummingbirds.
Mammals – Unlike most mammals, many unique species that populate the Peruvian Amazon tend to live in the trees. One group of mammals that highlight any trip to the jungle are monkeys that swing through the canopy and make their distinctive calls at all hours of the day and night. Their chorus echoes the diversity of species, from howler to woolly to the agile spidermonkey and many others. They live in company with other mammals, like the king of Amazon predators, the jaguar. Although these stealthy stalkers live on the ground, they are adept climbers and hunters. On the ground, you’ll find the large tapirs and their cousins, the peccaries, wallowing in mud pits or lumbering through the jungle.