By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer
Over half of the planet’s remaining rainforests – forests with high levels of yearly rainfall – are in the Amazon rainforest of South America. About 20% of Earth’s oxygen and countless medicines are produced by the rich greenery in the Amazon, which is also home to an incredible variety of creatures. From 2010-2013 alone, at least 441 fascinating species of animals and plants were discovered.
According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), 258 plants, 84 fish, 58 amphibians, 22 reptiles, 18 birds, and one mammal were found, and this doesn’t even include insects and other spineless life forms. Among them, a flame-patterned lizard, a brightly-colored snake, and a beautiful pink orchid dazzled the eyes of researchers. Some of the more mind-boggling finds were vegetarian piranhas from freshwater river rapids that ate plant seedlings, and a titi monkey species that purrs like a kitten when it’s happy. Scientist Thomas Defler observed the primate’s cat-like noise and explained, “When they feel very content, they purr towards each other.”
Unfortunately, the rainforest is threatened by deforestation, which is when humans clear out a forest to use the land for things like dams. Claudio Maretti, Leader of Living Amazon Initiative, WWF, is concerned that the unique plants and animals of the Amazon are being increasingly threatened by mankind. He said, “These species form a unique natural heritage that we need to conserve. This means protecting their home – the amazing Amazon rainforest – which is under threat from deforestation and dam development.”