Colombia is the second most bio-diverse country on the planet. Even though it occupies a very small percentage (0.7 percent, the size of Connecticut) of the Earth's surface, 10 percent of the world's species are represented in this Central American country. Between the Andes mountains, Amazonian rainforests, balmy coastline and tropical islands, Colombia has a unique combination of ecosystems, making it home to a large number of indigenous animals that exist nowhere else.
Colombia has the most diverse endemic bird species in the world. There are 1,871 known native types of birds, around 70 of which are unique to Colombia. From condors (the national bird) to toucans, parrots to hummingbirds and warblers, there is a bright and colorful variety in each different type of terrain. A large part of Colombia's tourism industry is based upon birdwatching and accommodating bird enthusiasts from all over the globe. Just a few of the unique birds in Colombia are the violet-crowned woodnymph, the brown-breasted parakeet, the colorful puffleg, the Santa Marta warbler, the white-tipped quetzal and the white-sided flowerpiercer.
Amphibians and Fish
Colombia, with its rich coastal territory and position in the warm tropics, has a very humid climate. It's the second most diverse country in the world in amphibians and fish. Among more than 760 species of amphibians, 208 are endangered. Some of those unique to Colombia include more than 50 types of frogs, including the Atelopus harlequin and golden poison frogs; more than 20 types of salamander, such as the Bolitoglossa and Pandi mushroom salamanders); in excess of 20 toads, including Hernandez's stubfoot and Herveo plump toads; and more than 10 types of caecilian, such as the Thompson's and El Tambo caecilians.
Among the freshwater fish unique to Colombia are the platinum and the yellow acara, the massive arapaima, the ram cichlid, the centrochir and eremophilus catfish, the emperor tetra, the apteronotus magdalenensis knifefish, the yellow hump eartheater and the twinspot triplefin.
The warm temperatures and rich foliage of the tropics in Colombia produce conditions ideal for 115 endemic reptilian species. Colombia is the third most diverse country in the world in reptiles. There are several kinds of turtles, including the Colombian mud and Magdalena River turtles; a multitude of snakes, like the Andean ground and Cope's blind snakes; a variety of geckos, including Colombian leaf-toed and clawed varieties; a plethora of lizards, such as the striped lightbulb and Daniel's largescale lizards; several types of anole, including the blue and huila; many different ameiva, or jungle-runners, including Echternacht's and Dunn's; and a mix of iguanas, such as the Bolivar and Dumeril's whorltails). Reptiles are constantly being discovered throughout the rainforests as a result of their ability to blend into the scenery.
Colombia has more than 450 species of mammals, of which nearly half are endangered due to the destruction of tropical rainforests. It's the fourth most diverse country in the world for mammals; 36 of them are unique to Colombia. They are mostly animals typical of jungle climates, such as four types of shrew, including the Colombian and Medellin small-eared shrews, and five types of bats, including the Colombian and Choco broad-nosed bats. Also unique to Colombia, thanks to dense forestation, are the tree-dwelling sloth (2- and 3-toed), at least 10 kinds of monkeys, including the Colombian woolly and Brumback's night monkey; numerous tamarin, such as the cottontop and white-footed; and the related white-toed capuchin. There are also multiple types of mice, rats and squirrels, armadillos, anteaters and even two types of manatee that are only found in Colombia.
- Humboldt Institute for Research on Boilogical Resources: Colombia in the World
- Living National Treasures: Colombia
- Focusing on Wildlife: Endemic & Endangered Birds of the “Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta” (Colombia-South America)
- Conservacion Internacional: Ecosystem Services Provided by Neotropical Amphibians and Reptiles
- Monga Bay: Freshwater Fish of Colombia
Kat Toland has worked with animals for over 20 years. She's been employed in the pet industry, but more significantly has been involved in all aspects of rescue, working with cats, dogs, horses, even spending time with rescued wolves. She currently volunteers with a group that runs with shelter dogs.