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Wildlife Highlights in Ecuador

Spanning three distinctly different geographical zones, from the steamy Amazon east of the Andes through the Andean Highlands, before extending 1,000 kilometres out to sea toward the rocky marine haven of the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador’s vast natural attractions proudly bely its status as the smallest South American country.

Ecuador’s Amazonian region is incentive enough to visit the country alone, even before venturing to Galapagos. Staying in the remote jungle of the world’s largest rainforest is an experience not to be missed, where traditional life and ancient traditions combine with abundant wildlife. Amongst the mammals living in the steamy jungle are armadillos, sloths, monkeys, tapirs and ocelots, but the smaller stars of the Amazon are the countless butterflies, frogs, lizards and tropical fish that you will come across as you explore by boat or walking safari.


With its abundance of natural habitats and protected areas, Ecuador is home to a number of different species of New World monkeys, including Pygmy Marmosets, Spider monkeys, Squirrel monkeys, Capuchin monkeys, Woolly monkeys and Howler monkeys. All New World monkeys are arboreal (meaning they live in trees) and feed on seeds, fruits and insects.

ECU Ecuador Monkey Branch BMJ


The armadillo, a creature that seems to have walked straight out of a science fiction movie with its oddities and clumsy gait, is a mammal belonging only to the New World: the American continent. As if prepared for a kind of medieval war, it always goes about in a suit of armor, with tough skin covering all its body except its feet and belly. This armor protects it, allowing it to amble around off-guard with its short-sighted vision and terrible hearing while it rummages around the earth.

Andean Condor

The largest flying bird with a wingspan of up to 10.5 feet, the Andean condor is one of Ecuador’s most distinctive species. Andean condors are found in mountainous regions, as their name suggests, but also live near coasts replete with ocean breezes and even vast deserts with warm breezes. Condors are vultures, so always keep a sharp eye out for carrion for which they can scavenge on. Although the Andean condor is considered threatened, reintroduction programs are working to grow populations of these South American birds.


Ecuador is one of the very best destinations to embark on a birdwatching tour. Home to over 1,600 bird species within just 283,000 km2, the mega-diverse paradise hosts the verdant Amazon rainforest, the towering Andes, the lush Pacific coast, and the renowned Galapagos Islands. Each of these incredible habitats is home to dozens, if not hundreds, of different bird species. Toucans, parrots, and so many more species provide an enviable destination for birdwatching. If you’re lucky, you may catch a glimpse of the Andean cock-of-the-rock - a small bright orange bird with brilliant scarlet plumage on the top of its head. Males have a large disk-like crest.

Spectacled Bear

The spectacled bear, also known as the Andean bear, is the only bear species native to South America, and it is found in several countries, including Ecuador. Here they inhabit the montane forests and cloud forests of the Andes Mountains and are typically found at altitudes ranging from 1,000 to 4,000 meters (3,280 to 13,123 feet) above sea level. Generally solitary and are known for their shaggy black fur with distinctive beige or whitish facial markings that give them the appearance of wearing "spectacles," hence their name. They are primarily herbivorous, feeding on a diet of vegetation, fruits, and occasionally small mammals.

Spectacled bears are considered vulnerable and are listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. They face threats such as habitat loss due to deforestation, human encroachment, and poaching. Ecuador has taken steps to protect spectacled bears and their habitats. Several national parks and protected areas, such as Sangay National Park and Antisana Ecological Reserve, provide important habitats for these bears. Conservation organizations also work on raising awareness and conducting research to aid in the protection of this species. It's important to note that while spectacled bears are known to inhabit parts of Ecuador, they are elusive creatures, and sightings are relatively rare.