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The Most Exciting Animals to See in Colombia

By Kenya Barrett


The South American country of Colombia is situated in a rather unique region of the world and is very geographically diverse. It is the second most biodiverse country in the world as it contains the famous Amazon rainforest and the Andes Mountains, as well as highlands, deserts, and vast grasslands. For this reason, you could understand why Colombia is home to about 10% of animal species on Earth.

Keep reading to learn about a few of the most exciting animals native to Colombia!


Capybara

At first glance, a capybara may resemble a large guinea pig or hamster — a decent observation as they are all from the rodent family. Being the largest rodent on earth, the capybara reaches a maximum weight of approximately 150 pounds and can stand as tall as 24 inches. Known to be social animals, capybaras often run in groups of 10 to 20 and spend most of their time on land. As herbivores, they mainly graze on grass and specific plants, but will also eat fruits and tree bark.

Though they are not considered an endangered or threatened species, humans often hunt capybaras for their meat and pelts. However, capybaras are relatively friendly to humans and allow themselves to be pet and hand fed. If you’re lucky, you may just stumble upon some while exploring the Amazon rainforest!


Pink River Dolphin

The pink river dolphin, also known as the Amazon river dolphin, is the largest species of river dolphin in the world, reaching up to 400lbs and more than 8 feet in length. What is perhaps the most interesting characteristic of this animal is their color which ranges in age, as the newborns and younger dolphins start out a greyish color. By the time they reach adulthood, their skin adapts a more pinkish color due to constant abrasion.

Unfortunately, this species is considered endangered with many being killed and used for bait to catch piracatinga, a common species of catfish. Today, some pink river dolphins can be found swimming peacefully in the Amazon Basin, the Madeira River, and Orinoco Basin.


Jaguar

The jaguar, one of the most iconic feline species in the world, is native to Colombia. They're well-known for their distinctive coats that range from brown and black spotted, to fully black. One of the largest living felines in the Americas, the jaguar has quite the reputation for being a stealthy, quick, and agile apex predator in the wild, that kills its prey with a single fatal bite to the skull. Surprisingly, the species plays an important role in stabilizing the ecosystem that it inhabits, which is the Amazon rainforest. Today, jaguars can also be found in tropical areas and moist wetlands such as the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta National Natural Park.

Jaguars tend to live no more than 11 years in the wild, but have been documented to have lived 22 years in captivity. The species is considered near threatened due to a number of factors. Sources state that the animal’s population has declined 20-25% since the mid 1990s, due to a combination of deforestation, poaching, and retaliation due to the killing of livestock.


Andean Condor

The national bird of Colombia is the Andean Condor. It is the largest bird in the world, in terms of wingspan and weight combined. It is also one of the longest-living birds, with some living up to 70 years. Primarily a scavenger, the Andean Condor prefers to feed on the carcasses of deer and some cattle. Culturally, the bird is regarded as a symbol of power and strength and has been represented positively in indigenous Andean folklore and art from 2500 BCE onward.

Currently, the species conservation status is vulnerable due to loss of habitat sustainable for foraging, human persecution, and secondary poisoning from scavenging carcasses killed by humans. However, you can still spot an Andean Condor gliding over the Andes Mountains!


Cotton-top Tamarin

Perhaps the cutest animal on the list, the Cotton-top Tamarin, is one of the world's smallest primates (less than 1lb) and resides exclusively in the Northwestern region of Colombia between the Cauca and Magdelena Rivers. Known for its size, rarity, and distinctive white-haired mohawk, the tamarin tends to be very social and has shown instances of generosity towards its counterparts. Currently a critically endangered species, the tamarins only have a population of about 6,000 and average a lifespan of 13 years in the wild. However, the species has lived as long as 24 years in captivity.

Today, you can find the cotton-top tamarin in specially preserved areas such as the Paramillo National Park in Cordoba, Colombia, as well as the Tayrona National Natural Park in Santa Marta, Colombia.

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