The Amazon rainforests are home to many unique creatures — so many that scientists regularly discover new species. Already this year, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) announced that 365 previously undocumented species have been recorded in the Bahuaja-Sonene National Park, which encompasses a portion of the Southwest Amazon.

A team of 15 researchers set out to inventory the plants, insects, birds, reptiles and mammals living in this Peruvian park, and they catalogued 30 new species of birds and 233 undocumented butterflies and moths, as well as a number of reptiles. Their work also turned up two previously undocumented mammals — the tricolored bat and the Niceforo's big-eared bat.

The species recently seen in the park are not all new discoveries, but they do create hope for the future of rainforest creatures. One bird species found in the park, the black-and-white hawk eagle, can be found living in tropical forests of Central and South America. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology reports that deforestation threatens its habitat, so the discovery of this species in Peru is a positive sign for its continued survival.

"The discovery of even more species in this park underscores the importance of ongoing conservation work in this region," said Julie Kunen, director of Latin America and Caribbean programs for WCS. "This park is truly one of the crown jewels of Latin America's impressive network of protected areas."

Ecotravelers will now have even more creatures to look for when they cruise the Amazon River. The Amazon still has many secrets that scientists and researchers are working to uncover, but the threats of industrialization, deforestation and hunting in the region are still very real. Many areas of the Amazon and other rainforests around the world are being destroyed by poachers and unsustainable hunting, emptying rainforests of larger mammals, reptiles and birds, which could throw the delicate ecosystem out of balance.

Only about 18 percent of the world's tropical rainforests are protected, which has worked to reduce poaching and habitat loss, but illegal hunting is still a major threat to the other 82 percent of wildlife. Awareness of the issues is a crucial early step to saving the ecosystems we still know so little about. Those embarking on Amazon River tours may be able to see creatures or plants never before seen by the human eye, while learning how they can help to protect one of the world's natural wonders.

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