ACCESS 360° World Heritage: Brazil

Video highlights from Panasonic Presents: Access 360° World Heritage

Learn some facts about the Amazon

1.    The Amazon is the planet’s largest rainforest and largest river basin, spreading over an area 50% larger than the European Union’s 27 countries.


2.    The Amazon Basin is the largest river basin on earth, extending over 6.8 million kilometers through nine countries. In just 2 hours of its flow it could meet the freshwater needs of New York City’s 7.5 million residents for an entire year.


3.    Humans have lived in the Amazon for over 11,000 years, but the West only discovered it in the 16th century, when Don Francisco de Orellana, a Spanish explorer and conquistador, led an expedition in search of El Dorado (the fabled City of Gold) into the rainforest.


4.    The Amazon is one of the most bio-diverse regions in the world, home to a staggering 10% of the world’s known animals and plants. Even now, scientists continue to discover new species at an astonishing rate.


5.    The Amazon comprises about half of the world’s remaining rainforest and over 40,000 species of plants.


6.    The Central Amazon Conservation Complex is the largest protected area of the Amazon Basin and among the world’s richest in terms of biodiversity.



7.    By 2005, 427 mammals, 1300 birds, 378 reptiles, more than 400 amphibians, and at least 3000 species of fish had been scientifically classified in the Amazon region.



8.    More than 30 million people live across the Amazon region, with over 280 different languages spoken here. The river system is the lifeline of the rainforest, and an important part in the development of this people.



9.    As many as 60 tribes remain largely uncontacted in the Amazon, or live in voluntary isolation. The area is home to 320 indigenous groups that make up roughly 9% of the Amazon’s total population.



10.    The Amazon reserves contain 64 species of electric fishes in seven families, including three species new to science. This represents the world’s highest known diversity of this unique group of organisms.



11.    365 species of ants were found in approximately five hectares of amazon rainforest.



12.    The Central Amazon Conservation Complex is the world’s last refuge for threatened species such as harpy eagles and pink river dolphins. It also protects key threatened species like the giant arapaima fish, Amazonian manatee and the black caiman.



13.    More species of primates can be found in the Amazon than anywhere else.



14.    The Central Amazon region is one of the World Wildlife Fund’s 200 priority Ecoregion for Conservation, a Centre of Plant Diversity, and one of the Endemic Bird Areas of the World – critical regions for the conservation of the world’s birds, that are often also rich in human cultures and languages.



15.    The Central Amazon Conservation Complex includes an important sample of annually flooded ecosystems, Igapo forests, and a constantly evolving mosaic of lakes and channels that is home to the largest array of electric fish in the world.



16.    Created in 1996, the Mamiraua Sustainable Development Reserve is the first Sustainable Development Reserve in Brazil, its name coming from the lake located in the heart of the reserve meaning, baby manatee.



17.    Created in 1999, the Mamiraua reserve protects a total area of 55,000km2, an area larger than Costa Rica.



18.    The Jau National Park, established in 1980, is the largest forest reserve on the continent with an area of about 23,000km2.



19.    Jau National Park derives its name from one of the largest Brazilian fish and the heaviest fish in the Amazon basin, Jau, which also gives its name to the main river in the park. The fish grows up to 144cm and 150kg.



20.    The varzea forests, which characterize much of Mamiraua and portions of Amana, were the most utilized ecosystems by human inhabitants even before Europeans arrived in South America.



21.    Close to 20 percent of the Amazon rain forest has been cut down in the last 40 years—more than in all the previous 450 years since European colonization.



22.    Amazon researchers fear that as much as a fifth of the rainforest will be lost in the next 20 years and result in the collapse of the area’s ecology.



23.    Dubbed the "lungs of the world," the Amazon plays a crucial role in shaping the world’s climate by regulating the balance of carbon dioxide and oxygen in the global atmosphere. The area stores roughly 70 of the 200 billion tonnes of carbon locked up in tropical vegetation. Preserving this density of vegetation is an important tool to combat climate change.



24.    Adults of the Pirarucu, found throughout the Amazon waters, are roughly 1.8m long and weigh 90kg, but they can grow to 180kg or more.



25.    The number of Pirarucu catches in Mamiraua fell in the 1970s, suggesting the species was dying out. It was listed as endangered in 1996.



26.    Although most Amazon caiman average between 3 to 5 meters in size, the largest recorded was a 5.8-meter male. Young caiman feed on small vertebrates and insects, and later on catfish and piranha. Mature caiman prey mainly on fish, but have been known to eat small mammals (such as the capybara, the world’s largest rodent) and even other caiman.



27.    A mere inch of caiman skin can be worth 25 dollars. Hunting since the 1950s depleted the Amazonian caiman population. The black caiman was categorized as endangered on the IUCN red list in 1982.



28.    Efforts to protect the black and spectacled caiman in Mamiraua have proved so successful that the population has exploded and the beast has now become a pest, even a threat. They are so thick in dry season that you can walk on them.



29.    A gentle giant, the Amazon manatee is one of the smallest species of manatee but can nevertheless grow up to a length of 13 feet and weigh as much as 3000 pounds.



30.    Not the ordinary endangered species, the manatee is said to have a unique sixth-sense.



31.    The manatee is a strange looking creature that looks like a cross between a seal and a hippopotamus, with other dissimilar animal parts thrown into the mix.



32.    Amazonian manatees are the only species of manatee confined to fresh water.



33.    Up to 100000 Amazonian manatees were killed between 1935 and 1954, their hides tanned and used as machinery belts, gaskets, and hoses.



34.    Amazonian manatees have been long used as a protein source by indigenous tribes.

 

Discuss this article

Newsletter

Never miss a Nat Geo moment

Your email address
Submit