Among the nations of the world, only Brazil exhibits greater biological diversity than Colombia. The country is home to one of the world’s greatest varieties of birds, as well as hundreds of different kinds of mammals and thousands of types of insects and plants. Yet the varied ecosystems of Colombia’s Andean ridges and valleys are becoming increasingly endangered, due mainly to deforestation.
The indigenous flora of Colombia is as varied as the topography. Mangroves and coconut palms grow along the Caribbean coast, and the forest regions, which cover about one-half of the country, include commercially useful trees such as mahogany, lignum vitae, oak, walnut, cedar, pine, and several varieties of balsam. Tropical plants that grow in Colombia also yield rubber, chicle (see Gum), cinchona, vanilla, sarsaparilla, ginger, gum copal (see Resins), ipecac, tonka beans, and castor beans.The wildlife of Colombia includes the larger South American mammals, such as jaguars, pumas, tapirs, peccaries, anteaters, sloths, armadillos, and several species of monkeys.
Caimans, once numerous along the principal rivers, have become scarce due to intensive hunting. Many varieties of snakes inhabit the tropical regions of Colombia. Birds include condors, vultures, toucans, parrots, cockatoos, cranes, storks, and hummingbirds.
Increasing deforestation during the latter 20th century had negative impacts on many bird species that thrived in the rain forests of the northern Andes a century ago.
For example, the yellow-eared parrot now ranks among the world’s most critically endangered species. Other endangered animals include the giant armadillo, the cotton-top marmoset, the white-footed tamarin, the tapir, the condor, and the caiman.
Another threat to Colombia’s plants and animals is the smuggling of endangered species out of the country. Birds such as parrots, toucans, and macaws, and mammals including the golden lion tamarin, marmosets, ocelots, and margay cats fall victim to such illegal international trafficking. Animals are often flown out of Colombia on the same clandestine flights used for smuggling drugs. "Colombia" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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