Plants and animals in Venezuela

Venezuela is rich in mineral resources. The country’s most important resource is petroleum. Other resources include natural gas, bauxite, gold, iron ore, copper, zinc, lead, and diamonds. Forests, too, are an important resource.

Forests of varied species including palms, coral trees, mangoes, and brazilwoods cover 52.3 percent of Venezuela. Plant life common to the Temperate Zone (the region north of the tropic of Cancer) thrives above about 900 m (about 3,000 ft). Long grass grows on the Llanos, and mangrove swamps cover much of the Orinoco River delta.

Among the animals of Venezuela are jaguars, monkeys, sloths, anteaters, ocelots, bears, deer, and armadillos. Birdlife is abundant and includes flamingos, herons, ibis, guacharos (also called oilbirds), and numerous other species. Reptiles, including crocodiles and large snakes, such as anacondas and boa constrictors, are also found in Venezuela.

Venezuela protects more than a third of its land area—the highest percentage of any country in North and South America. Yet despite these protective measures, Venezuela continues to lose some of its valuable tropical forests each year. In addition, soil degradation in the grasslands of the Llanos, resulting from years of overgrazing, has become a major problem.

Occasional oil spills have killed fish and shut down shoreline resorts on Lake Maracaibo. Industrial pollution also plagues the Caribbean Sea coast where most of the country’s population lives. Insufficient sewage treatment facilities contribute to the pollution of the Caribbean Sea coast as well. In rural areas many people lack access to proper sanitation. Air pollution is an additional concern in urban centers such as Caracas, Maracaibo, and Valencia. Venezuela is party to international treaties concerning biodiversity, climate change, endangered species, marine life conservation, ship pollution, tropical timber, and wetlands. Encarta

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