Living With Animals: The Amazon, Part 1

By Hope Bidegainberry on February 1, 2019
Drone Footage

The Amazon River holds more water than the next 7 largest rivers of the world combined. It courses 4,000+ miles from headwaters high in the Andes north and then east across 4 countries to feed the Atlantic with enough water every single day to satisfy New York City’s fresh water needs for nine years. By many factors, by any measure, the Amazon is the grandest river on Mother Earth. The Amazon Basin holds two-thirds of all water on the planet, its jungle produces almost 25% of our oxygen. Life on Earth depends upon oxygen and water. It is no stretch to say that the Amazon is life. The River and surrounding Basin are home to more than a third of the planet’s plants and animals.

One cannot of course “see” the Amazon so, more accurately, Carolyn and I just returned from gaining a glimpse, traveling 9 days by small boat along with friends, books, mosquito repellant (with two seasons, wet and wetter, this is the wetter) and naturalists. Almost our entire journey was focused on finding wild animals in the wild, but happily the trip both began and ended at wildlife rehabilitation centers. PHS/SPCA does comparable work here in this community, making well and returning to habitat 1,670 native wild animals last year. Familiar with this work when it comes to hummingbirds, red-tail hawks, raccoons and the rest of our natives, it was amazing to see patients like Ocelots, Bald Uakari (monkeys who wear a scowling expression on a tomato-red hairless face, looking a lot like your angry drunk uncle at a family dinner), Yellow-Foot tortoises, Wooly Monkeys, Scarlet Macaws, and Manatees. Manatees are what lonely (oh so very lonely) sailors centuries ago thought were mermaids but rather than Ariel, think 900 pound fully aquatic gentle and graceful (while in water) hippos with prehensile whiskered lips for nibbling their entirely plant diet. Their forelimbs are flippers and their legless backend tapers to a paddle. Babies, which look like adorable gray loafs of bread with flippers, are tragically orphaned (hunters and powerboats): very different species but a story with real resonance to my day job. (Next week, who we saw in the jungle.)

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