It’s a double-whammy of rainforest animal celebrations. We are celebrating International Jaguar Day and World Anteater Day. As iconic species found in the rainforests of South America, I thought it would be appropriate to learn more about them, and how we can protect jaguars and anteaters from home. (Hint: it has a lot to do with ZooFit!)
Jaguars and Anteaters, Oh My!
Jaguars and anteaters both get sometimes confused for other animals. The jaguar looks very similar to an African big cat, the leopard, while some folks may confuse an anteater for an aardvark or echidna.
You can tell the difference between a jaguar and a leopard by looking at their rosettes (their spots). Jaguars have spots within their spots, while leopards do not. The mighty jungle cat of South America is bigger than a leopard, making them the largest cat in the Americas.
Anteaters are a small group of animals called Vermilingua, which means “worm-tongue” (stolen from the pages of Lord of the Rings, I imagine?)
There are four species of anteater— the giant anteater, the silky anteater, and two species of tamanduas, the southern and the northern. Their long snouts get them confused for the African aardvark, or the Australian echidna. While the species all eat similar foods, they are in very different groupings— echidnas are egg-laying mammals (like the platypus) and aardvarks are the only surviving species of the Orycteropodidae family, being more closely related to moles and shrews than to anteaters.
Both anteaters and jaguars are important contributors to the health of the South American rainforest ecosystem. Anteaters eat mostly, if you can believe this, ants. While jaguars are the top predator of the rainforest. They eat anything, from rodents to reptiles to large birds. They have been known to take down caiman, a smallish crocodile-looking creature, anacondas, and the largest animal in South America, the tapir.
Without their support of a healthy ecosystem, as hunter and forager, many plants and animals would not thrive and the rainforest would collapse.
So often we focus on the doom and gloom, and what we should avoid. But today, let’s flip the switch and focus on two special rainforest treats that are good for us, and good for the rainforest.
Brazil nuts aren’t perfect, but they are a sustainable treat and chock-full of healthy benefits.
These nuts are energy dense, highly nutritious, and one of the most concentrated dietary sources of the mineral selenium, which is essential for your thyroid and influences your immune system and cell growth. Eating Brazil nuts may benefit your health in several ways, including reducing inflammation and supporting your heart and immune system. They are also full of healthy fats that have been proven to maintain good brain function.
But more than their health benefits, Brazil nuts are a great option for someone looking to eat sustainably. While they do have a higher water-print, meaning they require a LOT of water to grow. However, Brazil nuts require old growth forests to thrive. This puts an added economic incentive on protecting the rainforests. When Brazil nuts are grown organically and ethically by reputable growers, they actually benefit the environment tremendously.
Imagine drinking a tea that stimulates you better than coffee, without the caffeine crash or withdrawal while providing healthy antioxidants as much as green tea. Yerba mate is a staple for people in South America, and its popularity is well-deserved. With a smooth, earthy, almost chocolaty flavor, it feels perfect for a morning brew or a noon pick-me-up (always be careful drinking caffeine late in the day, even yerba mate, which has less caffeine than coffee). Reports show that drinking yerba mate may improve performance, stamina, and mental focus (positive effects of coffee) while promoting weight loss and guarding against infections, high blood sugar, and heart disease (positive effects of green tea).
But just as with Brazil nuts, yerba mate also promotes a healthy environment. This product is especially important to the local people, who grow it and harvest it ethically. The only practice that may be questionable revolves around labor. Many agricultural industries exploit their workers, and this can be true for tea plantations as well. However, one of the most popular yerba mate providers, Guayaki Yerba Mate, is Fair Trade certified, ensuring good conditions for their workers, and sustainable practices for the environment. So, you have excellent odds that your drink is as good for the rainforest as it is for you.
A Special Rainforest Treat
So, let’s raise our cups to two iconic species– the jaguar and the anteater, on this special day that celebrates the rainforest. Grab a cuppa yerba mate, and a small handful of Brazil nuts, and have yourself a delicious, healthy, sustainable treat. A healthy you, and a healthy rainforest, which will sustain a healthier planet.