Attractions of South America e-Book

6 Must See Animals of South America

The Animals of South America have been the inspiration of both writers and directors to produce books and movies telling tales of epic adventures or sheer horror. Meet the protagonists and make up your mind for yourself.



1. Andean Condor

Andean Condor - Colca  Canyon, Peru

The king of the sky, the Andean Condor (Vultur gryphus) is an absolute stunning sight when spotted. It is the largest flying bird on our planet, with a wingspan of up to 310 cm. (122 inches).

Condors are the national bird of Bolivia, Colombia, Chile and Peru and play important roles in folklore and mythology of South America.

The Andean Condor's diet consists mainly of carrion and occasionally sick or young animals. It feeds on dead deer, squirrels, mice, rabbits and other small mammals.

The place to view the majestic Andean Condor is from the Cruz del Condor at the Colca Canyon in Southern Peru. The condors start taking to the sky from below the lookout area. Watching a condor soar through the sky takes your breath away.

Have a close encounter with an Andean Condor






2. Piranha

Piranha - Amazon Basin, Bolivia

The Piranha (Pygocentrus Piraya) is a carnivorous sweet water fish that lives mainly in the Amazon Basin of South America.

They are about 15 to 25 cm. (6 to 10 inches) long. The feature that made them the protagonists of many horror tales are their razor sharp teeth.

Piranhas are harmless to humans (I have swum in rivers with piranhas while traveling in the Amazon Basin). Their diet exists mainly of small fish.

Have a close encounter with a Piranha



3. Capybara

Capybaras - Amazon Basin, Bolivia

The capybara is a semi-aquatic herbivorous animal and the largest of living rodents. It is native to most of the tropical and temperate parts of South America east of the Andes.

Capybaras live in big herds and grow between 105 and 135 cm (40-55 inch) in length, and weigh 35 to 65 kg (75-140 lbs).

The capybara spend most of their time on the banks of rivers, feeding in the mornings and evenings. Their diet consists of vegetation such as river plants and bark.

Have a close encounter with a Capybara






4. Southern Right Whale

Southern Whale - Puerto Pyramides, Patagonia, Argentina

This magnificent animal comes to the waters of Argentina's Península Valdés (Patagonia) to breed. Spotting a Southern Right Whale is a breathtaking sight and you can almost touch them when you set out on a boat from Puerto Pyramides.

Adults may be between 11-18 meters (36-59 feet) in length and up to 80 metric tons (88 short tons) in weight. Southern Right Whales (Eubaleana Australis) spend the summer months in the Southern Ocean feeding, probably close to Antarctica. Animals migrate north in winter for breeding and can be seen around the coasts of Chile, Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. The total population is estimated to be 7,000 to 8,000.

The Southern Right Whale's diet consists mainly of plankton and tiny crustaceans like copepods, krill, and pteropods.

Have a close encounter with a Southern Right Whale



5. Anaconda

Anaconda - Amazon Basin

The Anaconda is one of the biggest and heaviest snakes of the world. There have been sightings of anacondas at over 10 meters (32.8 feet) in length (although most are considerably smaller) and can weigh up to 250 kg (551 pounds) and have a girth of more than 30 cm (11.8 inches) in diameter.

The best two known species are the Green Anaconda (Eunectes murinus) and the Yellow Anaconda (Eunectes notaeus). Their habitat are the swamps and rivers of the dense forests from the Amazon Basin.

Anacondas are carnivorous. Their diet exists of capybaras and other large rodents, tapirs, deer, peccaries, fish, turtles, birds, sheep, dogs and aquatic reptiles. Anacondas occasionally prey on jaguars.

Have a close encounter with an Anaconda






6. Giant Tortoise

Giant Tortoise - Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

The Giant Tortoise is an animal that can only be found on the Galapagos Islands (Ecuador). It is an impressive sight; a giant tortoise can weigh over 225 kg (500 pounds) and measure 1.8 m. (6 feet) from head to tail.

There are 15 recognized species of tortoises, all generally considered to be members of the single species Geochelone Elephantopus.

The 15 species of tortoises can be divided into two general morphotypes: domed and saddle-backed. In the domed tortoises, the front edge of the shell forms a low line over the neck while in saddle-backed tortoises, the front edge arches high over the neck. Four species are extinct. The Charles Darwin Research Station in Puerto Ayora (Santa Cruz Island) on the Galapagos Islands, has a breeding program running.

Have a close encounter with a Giant Tortoise




Next: 4 Must See Beaches of South America


© All photographs by Mark Van Overmeire*

*© Photograph "Condor" by Grigory Kubatyan | Agency: Dreamstime.com