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rainforest: eco info: animals

amphibian The rainforests have Africa's richest assortment of animals. So rich, in fact, that identifying them all is a mind-boggling task for biologists. Animal life can vary hugely in any one spot depending on vegetation. A four-mile patch of rainforest could contain up to 400 species of birds, 150 species of butterflies and 60 species of amphibians!

AFRICAN FOREST ELEPHANTS (Loxodonta africana):

AFRICAN FOREST ELEPHANTS Little is known about African forest elephants because of their densely vegetated surroundings. Weighing in between 7,000 and 9,000 lbs., they are far smaller than their cousins on the African savanna. Their role in the rainforest environment is no less important, however. Trampling through the forest, elephants form trails that can be used by people or other animals. Scavenging for tree bark and vines to eat, they pull down smaller trees and branches, which lets in sunlight for the forest floor. Their love of fruit and other vegetation makes them a very efficient means of spreading seeds throughout the forest. Their relatively small, angular bodies and ears and their softly padded feet appear to be made for moving through thick vegetation easily and quietly.
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GORILLA (Gorilla gorilla):

GORILLA A native of equatorial Africa, gorillas can be found in rainforests stretching from Cameroon in the west to Congo and Rwanda in the east. The best known of Africa's three gorilla species is the mountain gorilla, an endangered animal that lives in the montane rainforests and bamboo forests around Rwanda and Congo-Kinshasa's Lake Kivu. Poaching and hunting have devastated mountain gorilla populations. Only an estimated 400 are left. Gorillas can grow to be as tall as 5'9" and weigh up to 600 lbs. Hardcore vegetarians, gorillas spend most of each day searching for leaves, stalks and plant shoots.
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BLACK COLOBUS MONKEY (Colobus satanas):

BLACK COLOBUS MONKEY One of Africa's ten most endangered monkeys, the black colobus can be found throughout the rainforests between southwest Cameroon and the Congo River. They live in the forest's high canopies and are renowned for their jumping skills. Their name, colobus, or "mutilated," derives from their lack of thumbs.
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PYGMY HIPPOPOTAMUS (Choeropsis liberiensis):

PYGMY HIPPOPOTAMUS A native of West Africa, the pygmy hippopotamus lives exclusively in the lowland and wet forests between Sierra Leone and CŔte d'Ivoire's Bandama River. At 5 ft.-long and roughly 418 lbs., it is the smallest hippopotamus species. Unlike its larger cousins, the pygmy hippo is far less given to spending time submerged in water. A confirmed loner, it prefers to spend time alone or in small groups.

DRIVER ANTS (Dorylus nigricanas):

DRIVER ANTS Feared by pythons and people alike, the driver ant is one of the African rainforest's most aggressive life forms. During the rainy season, armies of driver ants move in columns of up to 20 million across rainforest floors at the rate of 65 feet an hour in search of prey: millipedes, spiders, beetles, but also anything that gets in their way, including reptiles and small mammals. Soldier ants protect the column by standing to one side with their jaws open. A driver ant's jaws are so strong that some forest inhabitants use them to close wounds.

AFRICAN GREY PARROT (Psittacus erithacus erithacus):

AFRICAN GREY PARROT The most talkative of the world's parrots, the African grey parrot lives in parts of equatorial Africa stretching from CŔte d'Ivoire to western Kenya and northern Angola, Congo and Tanzania. Some researchers believe that the bird gets its verbal ability from its rainforest habitat: Animals must learn how to articulate sounds distinctly and loudly to communicate through the dense vegetation. More than just a good mimic, the African grey parrot has also been found to be able to identify objects by name, color and shape. Trade in African grey parrots, one of the most popular pet birds, has been illegal since 1981.

OKAPI (Okapi johnstoni):

OKAPI A native of the Congo rainforests, the okapi is kin to giraffes, but looks more like a donkey. Its neck and legs are far shorter than giraffes', but like its taller kin, it is a shy vegetarian, feeding on fruit and leaves. Female okapis are taller than males and stand about 5" from the shoulder. The species is known for its coat's purplish-black sheen and for the distinct black-and-white stripes on its buttocks, thighs and forelegs.

GłNTHER'S SPINY LIZARD (Holaspis guentheri)

GłNTHER'S SPINY LIZARD A resident of the West African rainforests, Głnther's spiny lizard uses its flat body and broad tail to glide through the air from tree to tree. Though this species has not been heavily studied, some reports indicate that it is not always particularly successful at its aerial flights. Głnther's spiny lizards are small reptiles, with long, stout trunks and tails and relatively strong hind legs.

Parrot Photo Credit: Jennifer Culwell

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