The Virtual Rainforest
A Neotropical Rainforest
Rainforest Research


Tree Seedlings

Forest Flowers



Army Ants

Bullet Ants
Leafcutter Ants

Rhinoceros Beetle

Swallowtail Butterfly



Keel-billed Toucan

Howler Monkeys

White-faced Monkeys

Three-toed Sloth
Baird's Tapir
White-lipped Peccary
Reptiles and Amphibians:
Red-eyed Tree Frog
Poison Dart Frog
Helmeted Iguana
Eyelash Viper
Terciopelo Viper
Spectacled Caiman
American Crocodile
Human Systems:
Rainforest Boy
Rainforest Girl
Traditional Ecological Knowledge
Rainforest Research

About the Authors





Traditional Ecological Knowledge
The Secret to Living in a Rainforest

Thomas FoxThere is a lot of information on this site about the animals that live in the rainforest.  You can read descriptions of what these animals eat, what they need for shelter, how many live together, and when they have their young ones.  This is important information for lots of scientists and students who want to protect them. 

But I am worried that you might get the wrong idea about my small rainforest community.  We in [Insert community] make our living by chopping the forest and by hunting.  I bet it must look like we are destroying the same thing you want so much to protect.  But think about it!  If we cut down the whole forest and killed off all of the animals, you can still go to the supermarket or the hardware store, but what would we do?  Where would we get the wood to build our houses?  Where would we get the herbs to make our teas?  Where would we get our food?  There are a lot of reasons why we need the forest, so how could we be destroying it? 

The answer, of course, is that we’re not!  Sure we chop down trees and hunt animals.  But my community has lived right here in this forest for many years and we haven’t destroyed it yet.  One important reason is that as we grow up our parents and grandparents teach us how to make sure that we don’t take too much from the rainforest.  As a simple example, let’s consider something my father taught me.  We have a plant called ahsi, I think you call it pinguin.  The ahsi grows best under the forest trees and it gives a tasty fruit in the dry weather.  We like to eat it a lot and even make a jelly from it.  But we know that we can’t take all of the fruits from all of the plants.  Why?  Well, we also like to eat animals like the tahira, I think that’s the one you call the armadillo. 

Confused?  Let’s start with some information about the armadillo’s food.  These critters love to dig through the mud to eat worms and bugs.  But what about in the dry weather when there is no mud and less bugs?  Although they may not like it as much, sometimes they have to go find fruit to eat.  If we ate all the fruits, the armadillos couldn’t survive.  Then we wouldn’t have any meat.  So, if we want there to be enough armadillos to hunt, we’d better leave some ahsi for them. 

So, although many groups of people are destroying the rainforest, we are not like them.  Of course we do live from our trees and animals, but knowing to conserve enough for tomorrow is an important part of our culture.  I hope that I have convinced you that we are not the bad guys, and that sometimes protecting culture and tradition is one of the best ways to protect the forest!



The Virtual Rainforest

Back to the Rainforest

Copyright Gerald R. Urquhart
Michigan State University

Students and teachers have permission to quote text and use images from this website in class assignments. Images may be used in classroom and academic presentations with notification of author. All other use should request permission.


Virtual Rainforest development supported by grant #0815966 from the
National Science Foundation

Center for Global Change and Earth Observation

Michigan State University