With a large variety of climates and three very distinct regions, the coastal desert, the Andes mountains, and the Amazon Rain Forest, Peru has some of the world’s greatest biodiversity in the world, offering animal lovers glimpses of some of the world’s rarest animals. For example, Peru has over 1,800 species of birds, over 500 species of mammals and over 300 species of reptiles. Here is a list of the Top 10 animals that you must see on your trip to Peru.
1. Humboldt Penguins
The Humboldt penguin is a medium-sized penguin that lives along the coasts of Peru and Chile. They have black backs and tails, and a black band across the chest that runs down the body beneath the flippers to the black feet, with the rest of their body white. In Peru, the most common place to find them in on the Ballestas Islands, a wonderful place home to many other incredible animals such as Peruvian Pelicans, sea lions, cormorants, Inca Terns and countless migrating birds.
2. Llamas and Alpacas
Llamas and their smaller, stockier and fluffier cousins, alpacas, are now synonymous with Peru and have been an intrinsic part of local culture and folklore for thousands of years. Llamas are mostly used to transport goods across long distances. They can carry up to 50kg (110lb) of goods for over 40km (24.8miles) before needing a rest! Alpacas, however, have learned to use their better looks and long, soft fur to live an easier life than llamas, giving the world their prized wool, rather than carrying heavy loads around the country. Alpaca fur is said to be softer than cotton and warmer than goose down, making it one of the most desired wool in the world, and is sold all over Peru.
3. Amazon River Dolphin
Also called pink river dolphins, these are the largest freshwater river dolphins in the world and can range up to 2.50 meters (8.2ft) in length and weigh up to 185kg (400lb). Although they are dark gray at birth, they become more and more pink as they grow into an adult; and males have a more intense pink color than the females. They have one of the widest ranging diets among dolphins, feeding on up to 53 different species of fish, such as croakers, catfish, and piranhas. To spot these dolphins, you’ll need to travel to the heart of the Peruvian Amazon basin from the base-town of Iquitos.
4. Spectacled Bear
The spectacled bear is the last remaining short-faced bear in the world and the only bear in all of South America. They live in the high elevation forests between the Andes and the Amazon rainforest, mainly in Peru. It is a medium-sized bear, growing no more than two meters (80 inches) tall and weighing up to 200kg (440lb). Their fur is blackish in color and they have light colored rings around their eyes, giving them the name of the spectacled bear. They are becoming increasingly rare to see, and they are incredibly shy, but if you get the opportunity to see one, it will be a sight you won’t forget.
Sloths are arboreal mammals known for their slowness of movement and for spending most of their lives hanging upside down in the trees of the tropical rainforests of South America and Central America. The reason why sloths are incredibly slow-moving is due to their low-energy diet of leaves and to avoid detection by predatory hawks and cats who hunt by sight. There are six species of sloths divided into two families: two-toed sloths and three-toed sloths. In the Peruvian Amazon, both types of sloths can be found, mostly in the Iquitos or Tambopata areas. Sloths can be 60 – 80cm (24 – 31 inches) long and, depending on species, weigh from 3kg to 8kg (8 – 17 pounds).
This chubby and undoubtedly cute rodent is a type of chinchilla that is endemic to Peru. They are found sitting, basking in the rocky terrains of Peru’s Andean landscapes, including in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, Machu Picchu, and the Colca Canyon. Viscachas are usually gray in color with bushy, long tails which curl into a spiral shape.
The Peruvian national bird, the Andean cock-of-the-rock, is found in the high jungle of the tropical Amazon rainforests, on the eastern slope of the Andes, where they build their nests. They are medium in size, about 30cm (12 inches) long, and are known for their bright orange and red color and distinct plumage, with a very prominent fan-shaped crest. Their wings and tail are black. Your best bet for spotting this incredible bird is at the UNESCO-listed Manu Biosphere Reserve, however, they also can be found along the famous Inca Trail.
The great spotted cat is native to South America and is definitely a bucket-list contender for all animal lovers visiting Peru. Jaguars are the largest feline in the entire American continent and the third largest in the world. They like to live in places with an abundant supply of water, such as rainforests or swamps, and they are known to be great swimmers. They feed by stalking and hunting their prey and using their incredibly powerful bite to kill. For your best chance to see jaguars in Peru, head to the Manu Biosphere Reserve, one of the world’s best wildlife-viewing platforms, and keep your eyes peeled on the river banks, where jaguars come to drink. Keep in mind that this predator is a cunning fox, and sightings are not guaranteed, but it is definitely a worthwhile place to visit on your trip to Peru.
It’s well known that the anaconda is the largest snake in the world. Anacondas can reach an impressive 10m (33ft) in length, weigh up to 250kg (550lb) and measure up to 40cm (16in) in diameter. They are most commonly a dark green, with a lighter yellow color lighter on the belly, black and beige spots along their sides and yellow and black patterns on the tip of the tail. Anacondas live in trees in the Peruvian rainforest where they slip down from the branches to attack their prey, and also in rivers or ponds where they sneak up on animals coming to get water. Anacondas are constrictor snakes, meaning that they wind around their prey to suffocate and drown them. Their favorite prey includes capybaras, deer, alligators, and jaguars.
There are about 32 known species of monkeys in Peru, particularly in the Peruvian Amazon. Among these are species of marmoset, woolly monkey and tufted Capuchin. Marmosets are small, highly active monkeys living in the upper canopies of the tall trees of the Amazon, feeding on insects, fruit, and leaves. Woolly monkeys are a much larger grey-brown monkey found in the high-elevation forests near the Andes mountain range. The Tufted Capuchin is a medium-sized monkey with rough brown fur, a long thick tail and a black mullet-like tuft on their forehead. You have a chance of spotting these monkeys in most places of the Peruvian Amazon, but keep your eyes peeled as they will likely be hiding up high in the trees.
If you’re an animal lover, South America is definitely the right place to be, as all of the countries boast incredible wildlife and an array of different animals, and Peru is no exception. You’ll never run out of places to visit, sights to see and animal species to spot, so get booking and prepare to be blown away by the beauty of Peru and it’s incredible animal kingdom.
You can book tours all over Peru to get a chance of seeing some of these fabulous animals on TheBesty app, including to the Ballestas Islands or into the heart of the Peruvian Amazon Rain Forest. Download it here on the AppStore or Google Play.