From the lush rainforests of the Amazon to the sun-soaked beaches of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil is known worldwide for its stunning landscapes. However, there’s much more to this enormous country’s natural treasures than most outsiders realize. Join us as we explore a few of these lesser-known gems of wild Brazil.
Feast of the Giant Anteater
Within Brazil’s hidden central interior, vast rolling grasslands cover over 185,000 square miles. This relatively untouched land, over ten times the size of Africa’s Serengeti plains, is called the “cerrado” and is home to a broad variety of exotic creatures. The best-known of these are the maned wolf, which resembles a long-legged, rugged-looking fox or hyena, and the clever capuchin monkey. One of the central actors in this grassland is, interestingly, the termite: these insects are a preferred food of the truly unique giant anteater, and their mounds also provide homes for the burrowing owl.
Day-to-day life in the grassland is occasionally punctuated by great drama: wildfire. Periodic fire keeps excess plant growth at bay, and prevents trees from gaining a foothold and turning the grassland into a forest. But the dry season presents challenges to the land’s inhabitants, forcing the fruit-eating capuchin monkeys to get creative with their diets and sending them running for the hills when a lightning strike sets the grasses blazing. Burrowing owls hunker down with the termites in their mounds during these firestorms, as the concrete-like structures are naturally fireproof.
But after the wildfires come the long rains of the wet season, providing life-giving water to the plants and animals that have been awaiting the downpour.
Further east, we travel along Brazil’s enormous 4660 mile-long coastline, where thousands of islands, lagoons, sand dunes, and banks made of shifting sand host thriving communities of animal life.
One of these tropical lagoons, the Lagoa da Peixe, is the only year-round home for flamingos in Brazil. Another, appropriately called Snake Island, is populated by golden lanceheads—the most poisonous snakes on Earth, which make occasional victims of passing migratory birds.
In the waves offshore, spinner dolphins hunt and play in the clear waters surrounding the Fernando da Noronha islands. Further south in the shallows of the Abrolhos Bank, humpback whales from all over the western Atlantic give birth and raise their young in the safety of this natural nursery.
There’s so much more to Brazil than meets the eye. Explore another side of this spectacular country this Sunday night, with “Brazil: Feast of the Giant Anteater” at 9/8c and “Brazil: Dolphin Coast” at 10/9c, only on Nat Geo WILD!