There’s a famous song, “Welcome to the jungle, it has tons of rain”, or at least that’s what the lyrics should have said! Jungle is a nickname for rainforest, which is a type of biome that is hot, humid, has very dense vegetation and receives a high amount of rainfall every year. There are two main types of rainforests, temperate and tropical. Temperate rainforests are found closer to coastlines and receive around 100 inches of rain annually, while tropical rainforests receive upwards of 400 inches of rain per year and can be found in areas close to the equator.
Rainforests are considered endangered biomes because they only encompass six percent of the Earth’s surface and are continuously dwindling in size due to deforestation and human overdevelopment. They are the oldest living ecosystems and contain more than half of the world’s animal and plant species, at least the ones that have been discovered! Warm temperatures and moisture make rainforests perfect habitats for all kinds of species.
At the Virginia Zoo, there are dozens of species native to rainforests around the world, and each animal’s habitat at the Zoo is designed to be just like the species would live in the wild. To create the ideal environment, you have to investigate each individual rainforest layer. Rainforests have four basic layers, also known as stories. Each story is unique because they receive various amounts of sunlight and rain. As a result, different plant species grow in each layer and animals have adapted to living in layers that fill their niche, or best suit their needs. Here are a few rainforest species you can find at the Zoo and what type of tropical rainforest layer habitat they are found in!
The lowest rainforest layer is known as the forest floor, which receives the least amount of sunlight and rain. Very few types of plants thrive on the forest floor, but there is an abundance of grasses and shrubs. Decomposition occurs in this layer, recycling nutrients into the soil for vegetation in other layers to use. Despite having the least amount of plant life and food sources available in comparison to other rainforest layers, ground-dwelling animals can still be found here.
In the rainforests of Asia, Malayan tigers thrive among any concealing greenery they can find, which aids in stalking prey, such as deer and boar, and helping to stay hidden from potential danger. For the big cats, poaching for skins and the capture of cubs for the illegal pet trade, as well as deforestation for the harvesting of palm oil are major threats that have caused the species to become critically endangered. The Zoo’s three Malayan tigers, dad Christopher and 3-year-old cubs Stubbley and Osceola, can be found along the Asia – Trail of the Tiger.