The Amazon Rainforest is a large, tropical forest covering most of the Amazon basin in South America. It gets its name from the first Spanish explorers who thought they saw female Indian warriors crossing the river in a boat. Hence they were called “Amazons.” These were probably not women but Indian men who wore their hair long. Today the name Amazon has come to refer to both the rainforest and the great river flowing through it.
How Big Is the Amazon Rainforest?
The Amazon basin is about 7 million square kilometers or 1.7 billion acres. Of these, the Amazon rainforest covers .5 square kilometers or 1.4 billion acres.
What Country Is the Amazon Rainforest In?
No single country “owns” the rainforest; its vast area stretches over several countries. Most of it is contained within the borders of Brazil, which claims 60% of the Amazon. Next is Peru with 13%. The rest are spread among Columbia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Guyana, Bolivia, Suriname and French Guiana.
Deforestation and Environmental Impact
Animals in the Amazon Rainforest
The Amazon rainforest is home to many endangered or threatened species in the world. In fact, about one third of all species on earth are found there.
Among the creatures that make their home there are the jaguar, which is almost as big as a tiger; the giant anteater; the giant otter; the electric eel; the black caiman (part of crocodile/alligator family); the anaconda; the tarantula; the toucan bird; the pink river dolphin (said to be the smartest of all dolphins); the ocelot (a type of wild cat); the kinkajou; the howler monkey; the scarlet macaw; and the golden lion tamarin.
Amazon Rainforest Conservation Efforts
Since 1960, the size of the Amazon rainforest has shrank dramatically. This is due to slash and burn farming as well as a steadily growing human population in need of more land. Because the soil in the forest becomes useless for crop cultivation after a few years, farmers keep clearing away more and more of the forest. At the current rate of deforestation, the size of the Amazon rainforest will have shrank to just 40% within 20 years.
Intense efforts are being made to save what’s left of the Amazon. Between 2002 and 2006, these efforts have nearly tripled. It has resulted in a 60% drop in deforestation. About 1 million square kilometers of the tropical forest are now officially protected for a total of 1,730,000 square kilometers of land.
Amazon Rainforest in the Media
The Amazon has been the subject of much exploration, study and media exposure. One of the most notable efforts to bring its plight to world attention was “Untamed Amazonia,” a French production released by the Discovery Channel in cooperation with the Brazilian government and the Vitoria Amazonica Foundation. The documentary series follows the lives of various creatures living – and dying – in the forest.