Animals of Central Brazil

Together with mention of the geographical work of the Roosevelt-Rondon South American expedition in exploring the “River of Doubt”

The people living on many of the ranches in Brazil make us rather ashamed for our own people. The ranchmen protect the birds and it is possible to see great jabiru storks nesting not fifty yards from the houses, and not shy.

Most of the birds in Brazil are not musical although some of them have very pretty whistles. The oven-bird has an attractive call. The bell-bird of the gray hue (contrasted with the white bell-bird) has a ringing whistle which sounds from the topmost branches of the trees.

The mammals were a great contrast to what I had seen in Africa. Africa is the country for great game. There is nothing like that in South America. The animals in South America are of interest to the naturalist more than to the person who is traveling through the country and takes the ordinary layman's point of view. Only two of the animals found there are formidable. One of these is the jaguar, the king of South American game, ranking on an equality with the noblest beasts of the chase of North America, second only to the huge and fierce creatures which stand at the head of the big game of Africa and Asia. The great spotted creatures are very beautiful. Like all cats they are easily killed with a pack of hounds, but they are very difficult to come upon otherwise. They will charge men and sometimes become man-eaters.

Another big mammal of the Brazilian forest is the white-lipped peccary. The white-lipped peccaries herd together in the dense jungles in packs of thirty or forty or sometimes as many as two or three hundred. They are formidable creatures. The young ones may be no larger than a setter dog but they have tremendous tusks. They surge and charge together and I think that they may legitimately be called dangerous.

On one occasion Cherrie was hunting peccaries and the peccaries treed him. He was up there four hours. He found those four hours a little monotonous, I judge. I never had any adventure with them myself. They make queer moaning grunts. We spent a couple of days in getting the specimens that we brought back. We had four dogs with us. The ranchmen had loaned them to us although I doubt whether they really wished to let us have them, for the big peccary is a murderous foe of dogs. One of them frankly refused to let his dogs come, explaining that the fierce wild swine were “very badly brought up” and that respectable dogs and men ought not to go near them. We might just as well not have taken any dogs, however. Two of them as soon as they smelled the peccaries went home. The third one made for a thicket about a hundred yards away and stayed there until he was sure which would come out ahead. The fourth advanced only when there was a man ahead of him. The dangerous little peccaries made fierce moaning grunts on their way through the jungle and rattled their tusks like castanets whenever we came up.

Armadillos were unexpectedly interesting because they ran so fast. Once on a jaguar hunt we came upon two of the big nine-banded armadillos, which are called the "big armadillos." The dogs raced at them. One of the armadillos got into the thick brush. The other ran for a hundred yards with the dogs close upon it, wheeled and came back like a bullet right through the pack. Its wedged-shaped snout and armored body made the dogs totally unable to seize or stop it. It came back right toward us and got into the thick brush and so escaped. Other species of armadillo do not run at all.

The anteaters, most extraordinary creatures of this latter-day world, are found only in South America. The anteater is about the size of a small black bear and has a long narrow toothless snout, a long bushy tail and very powerful claws on its fore feet. It walks on the sides of its fore feet with- the claws curved in under the foot. These powerful claws make it a formidable enemy for the dogs. But it goes very slowly. Anteaters were continually out in the big open marshes where we got the two specimens that we sent to the Museum. They were always on muddy ground, and in the papyrus swamp we found them in several inches of water. I do not see how they continue to exist in a country with jaguars and pumas. They are too slow to run away and they are very conspicuous and make no effort to conceal themselves.

The great value of our trip will be shown only when full studies have been made of the twenty-five hundred and more specimens of birds and mammals brought back. We will be able to give for the first time an outline of the mammalogy and ornithology of central Brazil.

Probably the most important feature of the trip was going down the Unknown River, because, of course, at this stage of geographical history it is a rare thing to be able to put on the map a new river, a river never explored, a river the length of the Rhine of which not a line is to be found on any map.

It was a journey well worth taking, a rough trip of course, but I shall always be more grateful than I can say to Professor Osborn and Dr. Chapman of the American Museum for having sent Mr. Cherrie and Mr. Miller with me, thus enabling me to take part in a zoö-geographical reconnaissance of a part of the Brazilian wilderness.

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