1. Over a quarter of the medicines, we use today have their origins in the rainforests – and that’s after only about 1% of rainforest plants have been examined for their medicinal properties. Imagine what else could be there? It’s not outlandish to think that our best chance of curing the diseases that plague our world could lie within the rainforest. But with so many species exterminated every day, we may never find out.
2. There are around 3000 fruits found in rainforests, and in the west, we make use of around 200 of them. However, indigenous tribes make use of over 2000!
3. Nearly two-thirds of Amazon’s expanse is in Brazil. But the Amazon rainforest also spans eight other countries: Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador are included in the Amazon basin, and Venezuela, Suriname, French Guiana, and Guyana are part of the rainforest’s biogeographical boundaries.
4. Unlike the Nile, which is over 480km longer, the Amazon River boasts no bridges at all. Framed by virgin and quite impenetrable rainforest, the shores of the Amazon have never been built up, so the only way to cross it is by boat. In 2010, the first bridge was built in one of the Amazon tributaries (Rio Negro) in the popular tourist hot-spot of Manaus. This was the first bridge ever built in the entire Amazon River system, which boasts more than 1,100 tributaries, and is one of the most complex and extensive in the world.
5. 500 years ago the total population of Amazon tribespeople was between six and nine million. These days that figure is down to about 250,000.
6. Today, the Amazon River empties into the Atlantic Ocean. But, until about 10 million years ago, it actually flowed in the opposite direction. Back then the river moved westwards toward a mammoth lake at the foot of the Andes. From there, the water moved north and into the Caribbean Sea. Scientists can’t perfectly explain the change, but they do know that it was geological, tied up with shifting plates and sediment build-up.
7. 17% of the forest has been lost in the last 50 years. In recent years the rate of deforestation has slowed somewhat, but careful stewardship of this incredible natural resource is still required.
8. Mention ‘terrorizing creatures of the Amazon River’ and most people will immediately think of only two animals: the piranha and the anaconda. Granted, neither one of those two elicits warm, fuzzy feelings, yet both are actually quite harmless to humans. The Black Caiman? Well…that’s another story. Resembling an alligator (only far bigger and scarier) the Black Caiman is the largest predator living in the river system, one which feeds on just about anything with a heartbeat.
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