Living With Animals: The Amazon, Part 2

Last week focused on injured and orphaned wildlife in rehab centers visited along the Amazon. Today, it’s who we saw in the wild and OMG we saw so much! Perhaps I’ve seen such abundance of animals elsewhere, perhaps, but not the conspicuous diversity. Imagine sitting in a skiff focusing your binoculars to identify a pair of macaws above (Red-and-green? Scarlet?) as River Dolphins surface their Pepto-pink backs 6’ away. I’m still working on my final tally (yes, I’m a list-maker) but we saw at least 130 distinct species. Where they belong! Having seen so many wild animals in cages for so many years, this was absolutely beautiful.

Watched from the skiff, a dead tree limb instantly evolves into an Iguana, drops to the water and swims off shimmying his long muscular tail, legs folded flat. A straight line of Long-Nose Bats similarly appears where only bumps on tree bark were a second earlier. A troop of Saki monkeys move slowly here, brown Capuchins leap athletically there, and we’re all watched by three Black Vultures circling high above. Hoatzin, primitive birds born with dinosaur claws. Impossible blue, dinnerplate-size Morpho butterflies. We land to hike a muddy hillside: a small Green Anaconda (maybe 8”); a very annoyed red-tail Boa Constrictor (longer than the Anaconda, evidencing his annoyance by loud hisses which go on for minutes, repeat, until we move on); a fortunately sleeping Bushmaster (our naturalist jokes their bite allows you just enough time to ask Why did I come here?). A 3-toed sloth moving at a pace which makes Jell-O seem speedy to grab a tasty leaf. A thumb-size frog with lipstick red body and iridescent blue legs tries to be inconspicuous.

Countless extraordinary, some few unsettling moments. I don’t believe we were ever in any real jeopardy, even when our skiff stalled, the props choked with plants, as the sun set and Black Caimans began exploring. It’s humbling and I think healthy to be so removed from all we take for granted, here in a place where we are decidedly not the peak of the food chain. Our time is brief and our personal worries small, as is our significance, when seen for what they really are.

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