We’re talking about The Amazon today. Not the online retailer where you can buy things online, but the Amazon rainforest where 10% of the world’s wildlife can be found.
Thanks to Erasmo who suggested the topic for this week’s podcast.
We have spoken about Brazil before. https://www.inglespodcast.com/262
But The Amazon is not only in Brazil, although 60% of it is. It can also be found in 8 other countries: Peru, Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Suriname, and Venezuela.
The word “Amazon” (without breast) was first applied to the legendary female warriors supposedly encountered by the ancient Greeks.
When Spanish explorers in what is now the Amazon rainforest were attacked by the fearsome Icamiabas (women without husbands), they compared them to their ancient Greek counterparts. That is where the name is thought to come from.
The rainforest is so big that the UK and Ireland would fit into it 17 times! (over 5.5 million square kilometres)
As mentioned in episode 262, the River Amazon is the biggest river in the world and used to flow in the other direction into the Pacific before the Andes mountains appeared.
Many people say, including Wikipedia, that the Amazon River is the second longest in the world (6,840 km). In 2007, Martin Strel, from Slovenia, swam it. It took him 66 days to swim, swimming about 10 hours per day.
More than 20% of the world’s oxygen is produced by the Amazon rainforest.
The Amazon has a very rich ecosystem. 40,000 plant species, 1,300 bird species, 3,000 types of fish, 430 mammals and 2.5 million different insects.
30% of the world’s flora and fauna can be found there, and an amazing 10% of the world’s plants and animals can ONLY be found in the Amazon!
It’s not the safest place on earth. There are electric eels, flesh-eating piranhas, poison dart frogs, jaguars and venomous snakes.
One type of fish found in the Amazon is the Pirarucu (also known as the arapaima or paiche).
The pirarucu is a meat eater. It eats other fish and can grow to nearly 3m long.
It has teeth on the roof of its mouth and on its tongue!
Another species of fish in the Amazon is your worst nightmare come true! The candirú, or toothpick or vampire fish, is a tiny parasitic fish that lives off the blood of its host.
It tracks its prey through expelled urea or ammonia. This makes humans possible targets if they urinate in the river.
It can enter the urethra via the penis or vagina, wriggle its way up, then anchor itself in position using its umbrella-like spines and start sucking your blood.
The Jesus lizard is so-called because it can walk, or run, on water to escape from predators.
The Amazon pink river dolphin not only has a strange colour, but also an interesting legend attached to it.
It’s believed that at night it can transform itself into a man and seduce unsuspecting young ladies into his clutches!
Many plants unique to the Amazon have useful medicinal properties. As well as their traditional healing powers, some are used as ingredients in conventional Western medications. Wasai, for example, can be ground up and used as a diuretic to help with kidney problems.
Lapacho is used to reduce pain caused by chemotherapy.
Other plants used in cancer treatment or strengthening the immune system include tawari tree bark, cat’s claw and suma (Brazilian ginseng). Other unique plants are used as anti-inflammatory drugs, anesthetics, tranquilisers, painkillers, etc.
Around 3,000 types of fruit grow in the Amazon, but only about 200 are eaten outside the area.
Sadly, we are losing a lot of the Amazon due to deforestation. Cattle ranching accounts for around 70% of deforestation.
Although it has slowed in recent years, rates in 2020 were the highest they’ve been for a decade, with 11,088 square km lost in one year in Brazil alone. That’s an area approximately 7 times the size of London.
Scientists estimate that we are making more than 137 species extinct every day.
There are about 400-500 indigenous Amerindian tribes living in the Amazon rainforest.
It’s believed that about fifty of these tribes have never had contact with the outside world.
Due to the thickness of the canopy (the top branches and leaves of the trees), the Amazon floor is really dark. When it rains, it takes around ten minutes for the water to reach the ground.
…and now it’s your turn to practise your English. What would you like to hear about in future episodes?
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The music in this podcast is by Pitx. The track is called ‘See You Later’
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