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David and Dave search the rain forest for unusual animals.
Segment Length: 14:00

Teacher's Guides Index

Rain Forest Animals

Show Number 1408

How are animals in the rain forest unique?
In what ways are rain forests important to your survival?

[Apple Image] Getting Started

Create a book about animal species found only in the Amazon rain forest. Find one species to represent each letter of the alphabet, and write each name on a different piece of paper. Illustrate with your original drawings or cut out pictures of each species. Use the book to speak to classmates, friends, or other groups about why it's important to protect animals' habitat and what is happening to the rain forest animals and plants.

Why do you think rain forests exist where they do in the world? How do they affect the environment where you live? Why are they so important?

[Apple Image] Overview
Imagine a vast, unexplored kingdom, inhabited by more than 30 million different species ranging in size from microscopic to gigantic. A land where cooperation is just as vital to survival as competition. A land untamed by humans. This is a rain forest.

Now travel along the 6,275 kilometers (3,900 miles) of the Amazon River. Two-thirds of the world's fresh water is found in the river and its 1,000 tributaries. Investigate territory covering more than 6 million square kilometers (2.3 million square miles) in Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Venezuela. You'll meet up to three-fourths of all known species of plants and animalsÐand thousands of unnamed species as well.

Survival here depends on a highly complex system of interdependence and adaptation. In the equatorial ecosystem, birds eat insects and plants. Snakes eat birds and frogs. Frogs eat insects and each other. Plants provide homes for insects and animals and depend on those animals to disperse their seeds.

Leaf cutter ants provide an excellent example of a symbiotic relationship. Leaf cutters are herbivores that can't digest cellulose. To survive, they collect plant leaves, cut or chew them, and "feed them" to the fungus in their enormous subterranean gardens. Fecal fluid from worker ants contains amino acids and enzymes that fertilize the fungus and break down the leaf proteins into smaller protein molecules that ants can digest.

Adaptation is another key factor in survival. Pink dolphins, about twice as large as the other species of river dolphins that inhabit the Amazon, are adapted to their environment in some interesting ways. The murky water has diminished their eyesight but sharpened their echolocation abilities, while the water's warmth has eliminated the need for body fat.

Superstition has also contributed to the pink dolphins' survival. Their unusual color (caused by blood flowing through capillaries beneath their translucent skin) has prompted locals to spin tales about them. Local lore has it that anyone who hunts or harms them can become ill or die, so everyone leaves them alone.

What external factors threaten survival? The number of people living in or near the rain forests is increasing. This puts many additional pressures on the ecosystem. Changes such as highway and dam construction, urbanization, commercial exploitation of animals, pollution, diseases, parasites, and the introduction of predators can all result in the destruction of habitat. Many experts believe that if current practices continue, the rain forests will soon be gone. And with them will go the millions of species that call the rain forest home.

[Apple Image] Connections
1. Who and what is at risk if humans don't learn to protect rather than destroy rain forests? Why?

2. What can you do to help the rain forests survive?


International Expeditions
One Environs Park
Helena, AL 35080
(800) 633-4734
(Rain forest workshops and educational materials)

Adventure in the Amazon Rainforest. (June 1993) National Geographic World,
pp. 19 - 21.

Ecotour, hold the eco. (1995, May 29) U.S. News and World Report,
pp. 61 - 63.

Goodman, S. (1995) Bugs, bats, and biodiversity. New York:
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster
Children's Publishing Division.

Pink dolphin page:

Sounds of leaf cutting ants:

Workshops, books, slides, videos: Amazon Center for
Environmental Education and Research:

Our featured contributor is International Expeditions, Inc., sponsor of Rainforest Workshops for Educators and Students. For more information call
(800) 633-4734 or e-mail

Student Activity:
Rain Forest Animals
Lizard Image

A Forest of Life!

Turn your classroom into a tropical rain forest.

[Apple Image] Main Activity
The best way to learn about the Amazon rain forest is to go there. (See "Resources" for more information.) You can also create a corner of the rain forest in your classroom. This could be a project for a group of students in one class, or each classroom could design a different rain forest (Asian, African, etc.) as part of a whole school project.


1. Decide how much of your room or school you will use for the project.

2. Determine what role each member of your group will have in the project.

3. Decide whether you will recreate one area of the Amazon rain forest, or parts of different rain forests to compare and contrast the plant and animal life.

4. Think about how to best represent the different layers of the rain forest.

5. Do research to learn more about the plants and animals found in each layer. Collect pictures of these organisms, or make your own pictures or three-dimensional models of them.

6. Find or record sounds of rain forest animals to play in the room.

7. Make and post signs that describe the different plants and animals in your rain forest.

8. Create an area or poster that describes threats to the survival of the species that live in your rain forest.

9. Write to or invite speakers from conservation organizations to talk to your class or school about how we can help save the rain forest.

10. Invite other classes in your school to visit your rain forest. Serve snacks that might be found in the rain forest.

[Try This]
Imagine you live in the Amazon rain forest. Write a diary describing one week of your life, including where you live, what you eat, what you wear, what sounds you hear as you wake up and fall asleep, and who your friends are. How does it feel to know that millions of acres of your home (the rain forest) are destroyed every year?

[Try This]
About 10 years ago, Brazil began to restrict efforts to develop the Amazon in order to protect their forest resources. Find out what your local city or county government has done to protect the natural resources where you live. If protective laws were passed, are they being enforced? Why or why not?

[Try This]
Design an animal and an environment in which it can live. Figure out how each will support the other. Add plants and insects that can coexist. What does each creature eat? How does each creature obtain its food? How do the living things interact?

Our featured contributor is International Expeditions, Inc., sponsor of Rainforest Workshops for Educators and Students. For more information call (800) 633-4734 or go to:

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