ecoDestinations Brazil: Home of Biodiversity

ecoDestinations Brazil: Home of Biodiversity

ecoDestinations Brazil

By Ariane Janer, co-founder, EcoBrasil

Fauna and Flora of Brazil

The present day mammal fauna of Brazil is a mixture of the descendants of ancient inhabitants of Gondwanaland and newcomers that descended from North America with the closing of the Panama land bridge about 3 million years ago. The first group includes anteaters, sloths and armadillo’s and marsupials. Some animals managed to reach South America after it was isolated, but before the sea became an unsurpassable barrier. These include the new world primates and the caviomorph rodents. But many of South America mammals are descendants from more recent arrivals and probably out competed species now extinct. The newcomers include the carnivores like jaguars, pumas, maned wolf and otters, hoofed animals like tapirs, peccaries and deer, and common rodents.


With more than 1700 species, including about 200 endemics, Brazil is a superb country for bird watching. Birds range from the majestic harpy eagle to the tiny (7 cm – 2 g) frilled coquette humming bird. Colourful birds like macaws and parrots, toucans and trogons, tanagers and manikins, icterids and cotingas. Birds with haunting voices like the ghostly potoos or the black- and-gold cotinga ("saudade"). Odd birds like the primitive hoatzin, noisy screamers and the booming voiced capuchin bird. Striking birds like currasows, storks and herons. Secretive birds like the wood creepers, antpittas and owls. The nests of these birds can be a tiny clay oven (rufous hornero), a hanging clutch of twigs (thornbird), a hanging bag made out of palm fibres (cacique) or just a hole in the ground (burrowing owl).


Brazil is a paradise for plant lovers and botanists. Its magnificent trees, beautiful flowers and enormous variations in edible fruits and nuts can enchant even those who are not interested in plants. Some of the important and interesting plant families you can find in Brazil are the legumes (half of the trees in the rainforest are of this family), orchids, bromeliads (endemic to the tropical Americas), palms (Brazil has the highest diversity in the world), cacti (including those living in the rainforest, spurge family (includes rubber), cashew family and brazil nut family.

National Parks and Conservation Areas

Brazil has an extensive system of national parks and other type of conservation areas. Brazil's first National Park, Itatiaia was already created in 1937, inspired by the example of the United States. The park system grew slowly for the next decades - in 1974, the total number of national parks was only 17 -, but started gaining momentum in the eighties. Today there are more than 65 national parks protecting about 7% of Brazil’s territory. Other conservation unit categories include National Forests (FLONAS), Extractive Reserves (RESEX), Indigenous Lands, State Parks and Private National Heritage Reserves (RPPN).

Photo © Bruno Maia


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