30 Most Unusual Rainforest Animals

“South American tapir (Tapirus terrestris) – Paignton Zoo, Devon – May 2019” by Dis da fi we is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Rainforests are thick forests in hot areas with many strange animals you can’t find anywhere else. It’s warm and wet there, which is perfect for a lot of different creatures like snakes, bugs, birds, frogs, and furry animals. They’re like big homes for plants and animals—half the world’s land critters live there! Plus, they help keep the weather steady and stop the ground from getting washed away. Here are the most unusual rainforest animals.

Amazonian Jaguar

Photography Of Cheetah
Photo by Yigithan Bal on Pexels

The Amazonian jaguar is the biggest cat in the Americas and has the strongest bite of any cat. It can crack open a turtle shell and take down animals four times heavier than itself, making it the top hunter in the rainforest. But sadly, it’s also one of the most at-risk animals, with just 170,000 left in the wild. Poachers and losing their homes are big reasons why its numbers are dropping.

Golden Lion Tamarin

“Another Golden Lion Tamarin” by Tambako the Jaguar is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

This special animal, a golden marmoset, is rare in the Amazon rainforest. It’s called a golden lion tamarin because it has a bright orange mane like a lion’s. Usually, mama tamarins have two babies at once, and the dads help take care of them. But sadly, these little monkeys are in big trouble because they’re losing their homes. There are only about 3,200 left in the wild—and 490 are kept safe in zoos.

Electric Eel

“Electric Eel” by null is licensed under CC BY 2.5

This fish is seriously dangerous! It’s called an electric eel because it can zap out over 800 volts of electricity. That’s enough to stun its enemies or even kill its dinner. Usually, when it zaps something—it paralyzes them, and they drown. Electric eels hang out in dark, muddy water where there’s not much oxygen. So, every ten minutes, they must come up to the surface to gulp some fresh air. 

Poison Dart Frog

“Green Dart Poison Frog – Costa Rica” by Nickodemo is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

There are 423 kinds of frogs in the Amazon, but the one everybody knows is the poisonous dart frog. It’s super famous because it’s one of the deadliest frogs around. These little guys come in all sorts of bright colors—like orange, red, and green-blue. Those flashy colors warn other animals to stay away. They’re called dart frogs because the people who live in the Amazon use their poison to make their darts deadly when hunting.

Bald Uakaris

“Bald uakari (Cacajau calvus novaesi) Uacari-Branco” by Fábio N. Manfredini is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The bald uakaris are tiny monkeys with a stand-out look—bright red faces, bald heads, and long, reddish-orange and brown hair. They like hanging out in parts of the rainforest that get flooded, especially near the Amazon River. But it’s not all good news for these little guys. Folks who live in the area hunt them for food, which has made their numbers drop by 30% over the last 30 years. 


“Puma (cougar)” by Marie Hale is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Pumas are big cats that live in many different places, from rainforests to deserts. But you don’t often see them wandering around in the Amazon. They like to hunt when it’s dark, going after smaller critters in the forest. Male pumas need lots of room to hunt—sometimes as much as 200 square miles! These guys are super athletic, too. They’ve been seen jumping as high as 18 feet onto a tree branch.

South American Tapir

“South American tapir (Tapirus terrestris)” by Charles J. Sharp is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

The tapir is the second biggest mammal in South America and is like a mix between a horse and a rhinoceros. It has stayed pretty much the same for the last 35 million years. Even though it is big, tapirs are great swimmers. They can dive deep down in rivers to munch on plants underwater. Their nose is super bendy, so they can grab leaves or even use it like a snorkel when they’re swimming. 

Proboscis Monkey

“Proboscis Monkey in Borneo” by David Dennis is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The proboscis monkey stands out with its big nose and reddish-brown skin. Among these monkeys, the guys with the biggest noses get the most attention from the ladies and are seen as leaders. They’re pretty chill with each other, hanging out in groups led by one male for quite a while. And unlike most monkeys, these ones can actually swim! Their toes and fingers are kind of webbed, which helps them zoom away from danger.

Pygmy Three-Toed Sloth

“Sloth in the Amazon” by Praziquantel is licensed under CC BY 2.0

There are less than 100 pygmy three-toed sloths known to live in the wild, making them very rare in the Amazon forest. All sloths have three toes, but these guys have three claws on their front limbs. Just like any other sloth—they’re pretty laid-back and only come down from the trees when they have to go to the bathroom. But they’re pros at hiding from predators by staying super still for a long time. 

Hyacinth Macaw

“Hyacinth macaw” by Tambako the Jaguar is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

The hyacinth macaw is the biggest parrot that can fly, and people often call it a “gentle giant” because it’s usually pretty calm. These birds are stunning, with feathers that shine in deep blue and green colors. But they’re not exactly quiet! You can hear their loud squawks echoing through the Amazon rainforest. Sadly, lots of folks try to catch them for the pet trade, which puts them in danger. 

Glass Frog

“Pretty-eyed glass frog” by Santiago Ron is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

The Glass Frog is super famous for its see-through skin—letting you peek at its insides from below. These cool amphibians live in the rainforests of Central and South America and mostly hang out in the trees. Scientists and nature lovers are fascinated by being able to see its heart, liver, and guts. Their almost invisible look helps them blend in with the rainforest, hiding from predators.


“The Rare Okapi” by Steve Wilson – over 10 million views Thanks !! is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Okapi, sometimes called the forest giraffe, lives in the thick rainforests of the Congo in Africa. It’s pretty rare to spot this secretive creature with its long neck, zebra-like stripes on its legs, and chocolate-brown body. Even though it’s related to giraffes—the okapi usually keeps to itself and stays away from humans. It munches on leaves, shoots, and fruits it finds on the ground in the forest.


“Hoatzin (Opisthocomus hoazin)” by David Cook Wildlife Photography is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

The Hoatzin, also known as the “stinkbird,” is a strange bird from the Amazon rainforest. It has a special way of digesting plants that makes it smell like manure, giving it its nickname. What’s really cool is that the young hoatzins have some claws on their wings so they can climb trees until they learn to fly. With its bright blue face and rusty feathers—this bird likes to hang out with lots of friends along swampy rivers.

Pygmy Marmoset

“Pygmy Marmoset 2015-02-04-0046” by BZD1 is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The Pygmy Marmoset is the tiniest monkey in the world! It lives in the rainforests of the western Amazon Basin. Weighing only a bit more than 100 grams, this little guy has special teeth for digging into tree bark to slurp up sap and gum. Even though it’s small—it’s super friendly and lives in groups. They chat with each other using all kinds of sounds, gestures, and smells. 


“Philippine Tarsier” by Ray in Manila is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Tarsier is a little monkey with huge eyes! It calls the rainforests of Southeast Asia home. These guys are night owls, coming out after dark. They’re some of the oldest monkeys around, with fossils that are 45 million years old! Tarsiers love meat, so they chow down on insects. They’re also super jumpers, which helps them catch food. Their special features—like their long tarsal bones, give them their name and help them be super agile.


“Capybara” by lorentey is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Capybara is like the king of rodents—it’s the biggest one around, weighing up to 140 pounds. You’ll find these friendly creatures chilling in the rainforests of South America. They’re super social and hang out in groups near rivers, lakes, and swamps. Capybaras are awesome swimmers, able to stay underwater for five whole minutes! They mainly munch on grass and plants from the water, which helps keep their homes nice and tidy. 

Leafcutter Ant

a group of green bugs crawling on a tree branch
Photo by Bernd Dittrich on Unsplash

Leafcutter ants are super cool bugs you can find in the tropical rainforests of the Americas. They’re famous for their amazing skill at cutting and carrying leaves back to their homes. But get this—they don’t eat the leaves themselves! Instead, they use them to grow fungus, which is what they chow down on. These ants have a neat system going on, with different jobs like workers, soldiers, and the queen. 


“Orangutan face” by @Doug88888 is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Orangutans are the biggest animals that live in trees and love hanging out in the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra. These clever monkeys are very good at using tools to find food and make cozy beds from branches. They mostly eat fruit but also enjoy snacking on leaves, bark—and sometimes bugs. Sadly, orangutans are in big trouble. People chopping down trees for things like palm oil and selling them as pets are making their homes disappear. 


“File:Aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis) 2.jpg” by Tom Junek is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

The Aye-Aye is a special kind of monkey that only comes out at night and lives in Madagascar. It’s famous for its strange way of finding food—by tapping on trees until it hears bugs inside, then using its long middle finger to scoop them out. This lemur is super rare and one of the weirdest mammals around, with big eyes, a fluffy tail, and teeth that keep growing like a rodent’s. 

Harpy Eagle

“Harpy Eagle” by brian.gratwicke is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

The Harpy Eagle is like the king of the skies in the rainforests of Central and South America. It’s super big and strong, with black and white feathers and sharp claws. It loves snacking on medium-sized animals and birds. Even though its wings aren’t long—they’re wide enough to help it zip through the trees. This eagle is very important because it helps keep the forest in balance by keeping the numbers of its prey just right.

Red Howler Monkey

“Purus Red Howler Monkey” by D. Gordon E. Robertson is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

The red howler monkey is famous for its super loud roars that you can hear from three miles away. They can make such big noises because of a special bone in their throat. Plus, they’ve got really long tails—sometimes even five times longer than their bodies! And get this: their noses are like super sniffers, able to smell food from over a mile away. These monkeys like hanging out together in groups of six to 15. 


“Nyctibius leucopterus White-winged Potoo; Presidente Figueiredo, Amazonas, Brazil (cropped)” by Hector Bottai is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

These night-time birds are great at staying hidden from other animals because they look like part of a tree or a mushroom. Their feathers are all gray and brown, so they match the bark of the trees perfectly. But the funny thing is—they’ve got these big, round yellow eyes that make them look like characters from a cartoon. And when they fly around at night, each type of potoo has its own special spooky sound.

Amazon River Dolphins

“channel-billed toucan watches amazon river dolphin” by Joachim S. Müller is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Meet the rare dolphins of the Amazon, also called pink river dolphins because of their pretty pink color. They hang out in the freshwater rivers and lakes of the Amazon. The guys are a light pink color, and during mating season—the ones with the brightest pink are the most appealing to the ladies. There are tens of thousands of these dolphins around, so they’re pretty popular in the Amazon. 

Peanut Head Bug

“Peanut-head Bug, Fulgora laternaria, Fulgoridae” by In Memoriam: Ecuador Megadiverso is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

This strange bug has got a bump on its head that looks just like an unshelled peanut and big, yellow spots on its back wings that look like owl eyes. These are meant to scare off any animals that want to eat it. Plus, if it feels threatened, it lets out a stinky smell! It’s super good at hiding during the day because it blends right in with tree bark.

Tube-Nosed Yoda Bat

“Bat” by Jeephead is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The Tube-Nosed Yoda bat, named after the famous “Star Wars” character, is actually a type of fruit bat. Unlike other bats, it has a rounder jaw that makes it look like it’s always smiling, earning it the nickname “happy bat.” Only recently has this unique mammal been identified as a new species. With its fuzzy chest, golden ears, and amber eyes—the Yoda bat looks just as wise as its namesake.

Bullet Ant

“Warrior wasp nest, Synoeca sp.” by In Memoriam: Ecuador Megadiverso is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The bullet ant is the biggest ant ever and has a sting that hurts like a wasp’s! The stuff in their venom that makes it hurt is called poneratoxin. But here’s the thing: these ants aren’t meanies. They only get feisty if someone messes with their home. Some go out to find sweet nectar and tiny bugs to bring back to the nest. But get this: scientists found out they also eat dead animals. 

Jesus Lizard

a small lizard is sitting on a branch
Photo by Collab Media on Unsplash

Meet the basilisk lizard, also known as the “Jesus Lizard” because it can run super fast—up to 65 feet on the water, like it’s walking on it! Plus, they’re like little underwater experts—they can stay down there for a whole 30 minutes. And if they need to hide, they can stay still for hours. Basilisk lizards love hanging out in trees near water. When it’s time, they lay a bunch of eggs—usually around 10 to 20.


“jesse high-fives a kinkajou” by robo_randy is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The Kinkajou, also called the “honey bear,” is a cute little animal living in the rainforests of Central and South America. Even though it looks like a tiny bear and has a tail that can grab things, it’s more like a raccoon. Kinkajous like to come out at night and eat fruits, but they also snack on bugs and small animals. They’ve got long tongues made for slurping up honey from beehives—which they love to eat!

Amazonian Giant Centipede

“File:Iz – Scolopendra gigantea.jpg” by Emőke Dénes is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

The Amazonian Giant Centipede is one big bug, growing up to a foot long! You can find this speedy predator in the rainforests of South America. It’s super quick and can catch all kinds of creatures—like insects, tarantulas, and even small birds and mammals. Even though it looks scary and has strong venom, it’s actually pretty helpful because it keeps the numbers of other small animals in check.


“piranha” by Mathias Appel is licensed under CC CC0 1.0

These fish are famous for their super sharp teeth and for hanging out in the fresh waters of the Amazon Basin. You might have heard scary stories about them swarming together, but that’s not totally true. Piranhas usually team up to find food like plants, bugs, and small fish. Even though people get scared of them, attacks on humans don’t happen much—and when they do, they’re not usually a big deal.