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7 Great Jungles Around the World

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Jungles of the World

Deep within the jungles of the world, there are fantastic creatures and the ruins of ancient civilisations.

These untamed environments are not for the faint-hearted as predators thrive and the prey have developed complex defence mechanisms. The dense thickets of trees and other plant life can hinder travel and obstruct vision. Someone, or something, could be watching you at any moment!

Here are seven of the world's great jungles.

7 Great Jungles Covered in This Article

1. Amazon Jungle (South America)

2. Volcanoes National Park (Rwanda)

3. Bandhavgarh National Park (India)

4. Monteverde Cloud Forest (Costa Rica)

5. New Guinean Jungle (Australasia)

6. Congo Basin (Central Africa)

7. Borneo (Malay Peninsula)

1. The Amazon Jungle (South America)

The world's most famous jungle covers about 40% of the continent of South America, with the bulk of it being situated in Brazil.

It's teeming with plant and animal life, including 430 types of mammals, 2.5 million insect varieties, 3,000 types of fish, and 1,300 types of birds (a third of the world's bird species can be found here). New species are still being discovered.

It's also home to many indigenous tribes; some have incorporated modern technology while others have had little to no contact with the outside world. The Waodani tribe (also known as the Huaorani or Waorani) speak a language that has no linguistic links to any other known dialect.

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Facts and Info

Size 6.7 million km2

Iconic feature

The Amazon River, which flows from the Andes Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean, passes through nine countries on the way. It has the highest volume of water of any river on Earth (20 percent of all freshwater that flows into the ocean comes from the Amazon).

Millions of years ago, the river flowed in the opposite direction, but gradually changed course as the continents split.

Wildlife

  • The harpy eagle is the largest eagle in the Americas, so large that it can snatch monkeys from treetops.
  • The poison dart frog is a brightly coloured assassin with enough venom in its dart to kill 10 grown men.
  • The spider monkey uses its tail as a fifth limb for climbing trees.
  • The pink river dolphin. How pink dolphins ended up in the river, who can say? Some tribes even believe they take human form and wander the shores of the river at night.

2. Volcanoes National Park (Rwanda)

This is the home of the majestic mountain gorilla and the location of Karisoke Research Centre, founded by famous naturalist Dian Fossey in 1967.

The park became a battleground during the Rwandan Civil War. What must the mountain gorillas have made of humanity's incredible capacity for violence?

The Government of Rwanda takes conservation seriously, and in 2022 voted to expand the park from 13,000 to 23,000 hectares.

Facts and Info

Size 160 km2

Iconic feature

Volcanoes. The park encompasses five of the eight volcanoes that make up the Virunga Mountains. Six are dormant. The two active volcanoes, Mount Nyiragongo and Mount Nyamuragira, are located in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Wildlife

  • The mountain gorilla was saved from extinction by the efforts of Dian Fossey, who brought their plight to the world's attention (subject of the 1988 film Gorillas in the Mist).
  • The rainforest is also home to the golden monkey, a playful primate that enjoys swinging among the bamboo branches.
  • Elephants also live in the park, although they are rare.

3. Bandhavgarh National Park (India)

Located in the state of Madhya Pradesh, which inspired Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book, this dense jungle is home to a vibrant array of plant and animal life but is most famous for being a tiger haven. It's a diverse environment comprises of jungle, rainforest and grasslands.

The jungle was once a hunting ground for the maharajas. Early human habitation is evidenced in man-made caves containing rock paintings dating back at least 2,000 years.

Facts and Info

Size 1,536 km2

Iconic feature

Bandhavgarh hill, for which the park is named. It is located at the centre of the park and rises 811 meters above sea level. According to legend, it was granted as a gift by the Hindu god Rama to his brother Laxman ("Bandhav" means "brother").

Wildlife

  • Royal Bengal tigers dwell here in great numbers. Jungle safaris grant tourists the opportunity to witness these princely creatures up close.
  • Other denizens include leopards, hyenas, Indian foxes, and 250 bird species. Wolves have also been sighted.

4. Monteverde Cloud Forest (Costa Rica)

Cloaked in mist, the aptly named "Cloud Forest" conceals a world of rolling hills covered in lush vegetation. Monteverde translates to "green mountain." Rope bridges traverse forest canopies that seem to be touching the sky, allowing travellers to explore this vibrant ecosystem—one of the few of its kind in the world.

Facts and Info

Size 105 km2

Iconic feature

It's in the name; the clouds that cover the forest all year round. Monteverde is one of few so-called cloud forests, which make up about 1% of all forests in the world. They are typically found in high altitudes where the cool air currents are deflected upward by the mountains.

Wildlife

  • It's one of the few remaining habitats where all six of the cat species—jaguars, ocelots, pumas, oncillas, margays, and jaguarundis—can be found.
  • The emerald green quetzal is one of the many bird species that can be found here.
  • At night, the nocturnal Hoffman’s two-toed sloth makes its way through the treetops, albeit at a very slow pace (it's the world's slowest mammal).

5. New Guinean Jungle (Australasia)

The second-largest island in the world is almost completely covered in rainforests and mountains, making for what Dr. Rodrigo Cámara-Leret from the University of Zurich calls "a paradise teeming with life." It's a myriad of worlds contained within a single small landmass consisting of beaches, tropical jungle, alpine grasslands and swamps.

Facts and Info

Size 288,000 km2

Iconic feature

Puncak Jaya ("glorious peak"), at 4,884 meters above sea level, is the highest mountain peak of any island on Earth. The glaciers on the slopes of the mountain make for a dramatic contrast with the tropical environment below.

Wildlife

  • A study released in 2020 found that New Guinea has the greatest plant diversity of any island on Earth. Two-thirds of the estimated 13,500 plant species are endemic.
  • There are butterflies the size of birds, a species of bat known as the flying fox, and tree-dwelling kangaroos.
  • The island is home to the world's most dangerous bird, the cassowary, which is capable of delivering a potential fatal flying kick.
  • Many of the creatures on the island are gargantuan versions of species found elsewhere in the world, and this includes insect and arachnid varieties. For example, the Papuan Giant Spider, which is the size of a small dog.
  • Since New Guinea is a tropical island, the ecosystem includes coral reefs with a variety of marine species, such as sea-dwelling snakes and giant clams.

6. Congo Basin (Central Africa)

The basin of the Congo River contains the largest jungle in Africa, and the second-largest in the world after the Amazon. It is the beating heart of the continent, providing food, water and shelter to an estimated 75 million people, including hunter-gatherers such as the Pygmies.

Facts and Info

Size 3.7 million km2

Iconic feature

The Congo River winds its way through the jungles, swamps and savannas of Central Africa, passing through nine countries and crossing the Equator twice on its way. It varies between raging rapids, gentle streams and majestic waterfalls; and at 220 meters in depth, is the world's deepest recorded river.

Wildlife

  • The jungle is home to many endangered species, such as the forest elephant, mountain gorilla and the Congo peacock.
  • The many ape species that dwell here include the bonobo monkey, one of humanity's closest relatives. Their unique features include a matriarchal social structure and high sexual promiscuity.

A short nature documentary about the Congo jungle, written and produced by Patrick Kabeya.

7. Borneo (Malay Peninsula)

The third-largest island in the world after Greenland and the aforementioned New Guinea, Borneo has jungles that are around 140 million years old, twice as old as the Amazon.

The diverse environment encompasses rainforests, alpine meadows, and swamps. Two large rivers, the Kapuas River and Barito River divide the Borneo jungle and prevent wildlife from roaming freely, thereby creating several distinct ecosystems within one island.

Facts and Info

Size 425,124 km2

Iconic feature

Mount Kinabalu rises high above the surrounding jungle, the highest mountain in Southeast Asia and the third-highest peak of an island on Earth.

Legend tells of a woman who would climb the mountain every sunrise to watch for her husband's return by ship. Upon her death, she became part of the mountain, her face always turned toward the sea. Locals named the mountain Cina Balu ("Chinese widow") and consider it a symbol of everlasting love.

Animal Life

  • The island is the only place on Earth where tigers, rhinos, orangutans, and elephants can be found in the same environment.
  • The Borneo elephant, also called the pygmy elephant, is the smallest elephant in the world. It's unclear how and when elephants found their way onto the island.
  • Clouded leopards can be found here; they are one of the most ancient cat species, originating in the foothills of the Himalayas.
  • The proboscis monkey is endemic to Borneo, and can usually be found in coastal areas where it enjoys frolicking in the ocean.

References

General Informaiton. worldwildlife.org

Patrick Pester. 2022, 1 January. What are the largest rainforests in the world? (livescience.com).

Phoebe Weston. 2020, 5 August. New Guinea has greatest plant diversity of any island in the world, study reveals (theguardian.com).

Holly Secon. 2020, 5 August. The Congo River Basin: Home of the deepest river in the world (livescience.com).

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