New Amazon Animals Discovered! Plus 3 Ways to See the River’s Wondrous Wildlife


Over the last decade or so, the environmental news coming out of Brazil has been full of heartbreaking reports about deforestation, water pollution, and a broad range of threats endangering countless Amazon animals. So the conservation community was surprised and elated by recent news of a 2-year scientific study, which found that the Brazilian Amazon is so full of life that new species of flora or fauna were being discovered every other day on average.

Conducted in partnership between World Wildlife Fund and a Brazil-based conservation non-profit, the Mamirauá Institute for Sustainable Development, the study tracked new vertebrate and plant species discovered in the Amazon River basin in 2014 and 2015.

Wild ginger in the Amazon

Untold Treasures of the Amazon

Using only peer-reviewed journals as their source, researchers found credible reports of 381 new species. These included 216 plants, 93 fish, 32 amphibians, 20 mammals, 19 reptiles, and one bird. Notable new species include a pink river dolphin (Inia araguaiaensis), the adorable Fire-tailed Titi Monkey, the freshwater Honeycomb Stingray, and the Western Striolated Puffbird (whose scientific name, Nystalus obamai, is a tribute to Barack Obama).

As these incredible discoveries were announced, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature quickly labeled several of the newly identified plants and animals as threatened or endangered. The WWF report notes that the rapid advance of habitat destruction in the southern and eastern portions of the river basin could put many of these Amazon animals at risk.

“This [report] shows we have a very rich Amazon," said Pedro Nassar, a biologist at the Mamirauá Institute, in an interview with National Geographic. "We have to preserve [these species]."

Unfortunately the Brazilian government removed protection for a huge portion of the Amazon in August of 2017 in order to allow access for the mining of gold and other minerals. But the Mamirauá team continues to study the Amazon river basin in search of new species, particularly the relatively unexplored northern and western regions.

amazon voyage photos red capped cardinal

Where to See Amazon Animals

The good news is that Amazon River’s drainage basin covers approximately 2,900,000 square miles, stretching nearly the entire width of the South American continent. Brazil’s portion may be the largest, but the Ecuadorian and Peruvian Amazon offer impressively pristine places for wildlife lovers to explore.

Here’s an overview of three exceptional adventures that allow you to see some of the 1400 mammal species, 1500 bird species, 1000 amphibian species, and endless array of insects that call the Amazon home:

Amazon monk saki

The Peruvian Amazon

The Amazon rainforest covers approximately 60% of Peru, the largest extension in any country after Brazil. Peru has the largest number of birds and the third largest number of mammals in the world, largely due to the rich biodiversity found within the Amazon. IE’s Amazon River Cruise offers an immersive experience that benefits from their 38 years of guiding trips in this pristine part of Peru.


Over the course of 10 days, guests venture some 600 miles along the river and its tributaries in the newly chartered luxury riverboat Zafiro. Along the way, they’ll visit the Manatee and Pilpintuwasi Rescue Centers, explore the remote Pacaya-Samiria Reserve, and look for wildlife such as Howler Monkeys, Pink River Dolphins, countless tropical bird species, and occasional big cats (Jaguars, Ocelots, etc.). But my personal favorite memory of the Peruvian Amazon was our time with the Ribereños, who welcomed us into their homes and ultimately stole our hearts. 

Jaguar in Pantanal

The Brazilian Amazon

IE’s  Jaguars, Rainforests & Falls Brazil tour offers travelers an opportunity to explore three iconic areas of Brazil– the Amazon, Iguaçu Falls, and the Pantanal. The trip’s Amazon portion finds guests based at Cristalino Lodge, which National Geographic Traveler readers voted as one of the world’s best eco lodges.

From there they’ll get a chance to see wildlife from a canopy tower and numerous hiking trails through the forest. The area’s many streams are great places for spotting endemic Amazonian animals such as the Crimson-bellied Conure, Red-Nosed Saki, and White-cheeked Spider Monkey.

Hoatzin in Amazon

The Ecuadorian Amazon

IE’s Ecuador Andes & Amazon tour gives guests an experience in two very different ecosystems, from the mountains of Otavalo and Quito to the Napo River (one of countless Amazon tributaries). The trip includes four nights aboard the M/V Anaconda, a luxury riverboat whose amenities include an al fresco lounge, kayaks, observation deck, and outdoor Jacuzzi. You can also request special activities from the concierge, such as night camping in luxury tents.

Amazon pink dolphin

During the day you’ll explore the Ecuadorian Amazon is small groups via canoe, with naturalist guides pointing out all sorts of amazing animals along the way. Look out for the famous Pink River Dolphin, Black Caiman, and the bizarre bird called the Hoatzin (a.k.a. “punk rock bird,” or “stinky turkey”). You’ll also get to visit a local community, to learn more about the warm, welcoming villagers and their traditional way of life.

Bret Love is a journalist/editor with 23 years of print and online experience, whose clients have ranged from the Atlanta Journal Constitution and American Airlines to National Geographic and Yahoo Travel. Along with his wife, photographer/videographer Mary Gabbett, he is the co-founder of ecotourism/conservation website Green Global Travel and Green Travel Media.