The Jardim Botânico in Rio de Janeiro became a popular recreational area for many citizen. However, the botanical garden is not only a recreational area. It also provides a home for many wild animals and rare plant species. In this blog entry I will give an impression of the Jardim Botânico and which wildlife you can expect to observe.
The Jardim Botânico in Rio de Janeiro
The Jardim Botânico in Rio de Janeiro was founded on the 13th of June in 1808 by the Portuguese king Dom João VI. Initially, the botanical garden was founded in order to grow plant species imported from other parts of the world and to establish a gunpowder factory. Today the Jardim Botânico is due to its reaseach center - Instituto de Pesquisas Jardim Botânico do Rio de Janeiro - one of the most important research institutes worldwide with respect to botany. Since the 1980s the botanical garden is not only focused on research, but also on the conservation of biodiversity. One initiative was the foundation of the Escola Nacional de Botânica Tropical (ENBT) in 2001 - a school with the aim to transmit knowledge in botany. The aim of another initiative - Centro Nacional de Conservação da Flora (CNCFlora) which was founded in 2008 – is to protect biodiversity and the conservation of Brazilian flora.
The Jardim Botânico is home to a great variety of different plant species. As I’m not a botanist, I can give you here just a very superficial overview about what you can expect to see in the botanical garden in Rio de Janeiro.
One typical tree species of the Atlantic Forest or Mata Atlântica, respectively, is the Brazilwood (Caesalpinia echinata) or Pau-brasil in Portuguese. The Pau-brasil is symbol of Brazil since 1978. The tree can reach a height of about 30 m and the tree trunk a diameter of 50 to 65 cm. Its wood is used in the fabrication of dyes, violin bows, in carpentry or in construction. Just to name a few. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Pau-brasil is "endangered" especially due to its exploitation in the past. Nowadays, there are efforts in Brazil to protect this tree species. We saw a Pau-brasil also close to the Sugarloaf Mountain.
There are many nice paths through the Jardim Botânico in Rio de Janeiro. You should take your time and stop now and then to enjoy the sounds of nature. Although the botanical garden is located in one of the biggest cities in South America, in the Jardim Botânico you will find some quiet moments.
Along the path you will also find some information about the trees in the botanical garden like e.g. about the jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus). The jackfruit is originally from Asia, but was introduced in Brazil. As it was easy for the jackfruit to spread in Brazil, this tree replaced many native tree species.
On our path through the Jardim Botânico I learned many new facts about the Atlantic Forest. The Atlantic Forest in Brazil is one of the most biodiverse biomes worldwide. More than 20.000 species of plants and ~990 birds, ~270 mammals, ~200 reptiles, ~370 amphibians, and ~350 fishes live in the Atlantic Forest.
On the official website of the Jardim Botânico you will find more information about the different areas and paths in the botanical garden. It is worth to take a look on it, as you will also find a map on the website (you will find a link below in this blog entry).
There are also several ponds in the botanical garden. At one pond we found some aquatic plants. These aquatic plants are the largest water lilies worldwide (Victoria amazonica) and became the national plant of Guyana.
At this pond we found another very interesting plant species I had never seen before. It was a bald cypress (Taxodium distichum). On the photograph you see cypress knees. These structures form above of cypress trees, however, their function is still not quite clear. Maybe they help in anchoring the tree in muddy soils as they are often seen close to trees that grow in swamps? Or they help to aerate the roots of the tree?
Close to the pond we found another interesting tree. And this was a cannonball tree (Couroupita guianensis). Cannonball tress are native in Central and South America. Its name „cannonball tree“ can be attributed to their large spherical fruits. The fruits are surrounded by a woody shell.
After admiring the fruits of the cannonball tree, we reached an area with many bamboo trees (Bambusa multiplex). These bamboo trees occur naturally in Asia, that means, in China and Vietnam.
The Jardim Botânico in Rio de Janeiro is a great place to explore and learn more about plants in Brazil. However, this is just a very short overview. In the next paragraph I will tell you more about wildlife in the botanical garden.
Wildlife in the botanical garden
If you enter the Jardim Botânico in Rio de Janeiro, there are some rules you have to accept with respect to wildlife. That means, you should not feed wild animals and don’t touch them. You also have to keep your distance from wildlife and not to disturb them. Additionally, you should not leave your pet unsupervised in the botanical garden. I think these are quite obvious rules everyone should follow.
Adjacent to the Jardim Botânico is the Parque Nacional da Tijuca. Unfortunately, it was not possible for us to visit this national park. The people from the tourist information highly recommended us not to go due to many assaults in the past. Nevertheless, due to the proximity of the Parque Nacional da Tijuca, many animals can migrate between the national park and the botanical garden.
Although there are also many invertebrates in the Jardim Botânico, I will focus here in this blog entry on vertebrates. Before our visit I was looking on iNaturalist which animals can be found in the botanical garden in Rio de Janeiro. As I had seen already common marmosets at the Sugarloaf Mountain, I became especially interested to see another species of marmoset. To be more precisely, I wanted to see a black-tufted marmoset (also known as black-pencilled marmoset). With success? Well. Yes and no.
Important: Please do not feed or touch any wildlife. Wild animals might loose their natural fear of people, and furthermore, food of humans isn't good for them. Please follow the rules and don't feed wildlife.
Monkeys in the Jardim Botânico
According to the official website of the Jardim Botânico, black capuchins (Sapajus nigritus) can be frequently seen in the botanical garden. However, we did not see any of them in the botanical garden, but we had met a group of black capuchins already in the Itatiaia National Park and at the Iguazú Falls on the Argentinian side.
Nevertheless, there are two more primate species living in the botanical garden in Rio de Janeiro. Common marmosets (Callithrix jacchus) and black-pencilled marmosets (Callithrix penicillata). Both species are of "least concern" according to the IUCN. As mentioned above, I had seen common marmosets already in the wild in Rio de Janeiro, but not black-tufted marmosets. Actually, I had seen them already in Brazil. But not in the wild. I saw some black-tufted marmosets in the bird park Parque das Aves - an institution which is actually specialized in the conservation of Brazilian birds.
In the Jardim Botânico we encountered marmosets several times. But were they common marmosets or black-tufted marmosets or hybrids?
Well, I thought common marmosets to have seen due to their mostly white tufts. However, on iNaturalist three people disagreed and added a hybrid of Black-pencilled × Common Marmoset (Callithrix jacchus × penicillata) as the correct identification. I had a closer look on all photographs, and indeed, some had a mixture of black and white tufts. At first I thought they had black and white tufts because they were juveniles.
Common marmosets naturally live in the northeast of Brazil and black-tufted marmosets in central-western Brazil. Both were introduced in Rio de Janeiro, and thus, considered as invasive species due to their reproductive success. Furthermore, they are predators of bird eggs and nestlings, which might affect negatively bird diversity.
I was looking for more information and I found a research article about this topic. The article is about the hybridization of common marmosets and black-tufted marmosets. In this study the researchers compared hybridization patterns of these two species in two different areas. In one area they knew that both marmosets where introduced by humans (Silva Jardim/Rio Bonito in Rio de Janeiro where the Golden lion tamarins live). In the second area the researchers assumed natural hybridization between the two species (Petrolina-Pernambuco and Juazeiro-Bahia). At the end they found out, that there is gene flow in both areas between the two species, however, gene flow was higher in the human-induced zone in Rio de Janeiro. Is this because of fewer physical barriers?
Nevertheless, after reading this article I thought about all the challenges with respect to the conservation of these two marmosets. If we consider that hybridization is important in animal evolutionary history, how to treat human-induced hybrid populations? Should they be treated as natural hybrid populations in conservation? Or should we protect only those hybrid animals that result from natural hybridizations? Or both if we consider that more than one fourth of all primates are threatened?
Marmosets are arboreal animals, and thus, are also able to leap easily from one tree to the other.
One typical behavior among marmosets which we observed again was gnawing holes into the tree bark with their specialized incisors.
We did not see any black capuchin monkey, but the marmosets were all around. We saw them in several spots. However, during midday the marmosets were very calm and they stayed up in the tree. Later they came down again.
If you want to know more about common marmosets, I have written more about their biology in a previous blog entry. For example, did you know that marmosets usually give birth to twins? And that they show social behavior like grooming each other?
At the end of our encounter with the marmosets, we saw one interaction we did not quite understand.
We observed one adult individual how it grabbed a juvenile. What happened to this juvenile? And what was the adult animal doing in that moment? The juvenile was vocalizing in some moments, and thus, got our attention.
The other adult marmoset left, but was still around. We did not understand why the juvenile was calling, neither the short interaction between these two marmosets.
Nevertheless, we had to leave. I took a last portrait of one marmoset and we left them behind.
Like us, the marmosts left the place and headed to another tree were they finally disappeared.
Birds in the Jardim Botânico
According to the official website of the Jardim Botânico some of the most frequent seen birds in the botanical garden are great kiskadees (Pitangus sulphuratus), green-headed tanagers (Tangara seledon), red-necked tanagers (Tangara cyanocephala), sayaca tanagers (Tangara sayaca) and palm tanagers (Tangara palmarum), but also parakeets like golden-capped parakeets (Aratinga auricapillus), Jandaya parakeets (Aratinga jandaya) and maroon-bellied parakeets (Pyrrhura frontalis). Herons and egrets like snowy egrets (Egretta thula) or great egrets (Ardea alba) and hawks like roadside hawks (Rupornis magnirostris) and white-necked hawks (Amadonastur lacernulatus) also can be seen in the botanical garden. Just to name a few. In this paragraph I will show all birds we saw on our stroll through the Jardim Botânico in Rio de Janeiro.
Chestnut-backed antshrikes belong to the antbird family (Thamnophilidae). Although it is a very diverse and abundant bird family in Brazil, I haven’t seen many of them on my journey through the south of Brazil. I saw one barred-antshrike (Thamnophilus doliatus) in the Pantanal.
I knew already rufous-bellied thrushes which are also known as red-bellied thrushes. I had seen already one of them cleaning its plumage in Ubatuba and another one singing in the evening in the Itatiaia National Park. Not to forget the first rufous-bellied thrush I observed in Ouro Preto eating a fruit in the top of a tree. As you can see, we observed this bird species various times.
Like rufous-bellied thrushes, we encountered maroon-bellied parakeets in the Itatiaia National Park and in Ubatuba. In the Itatiaia National Park we saw them even three times. In one occasion they were feeding on some guavas. In the Jardim Botânico in Rio de Janeiro we observed them in one of the trees. And as usual, we had to be as inconspicuous as possible as they are very shy birds.
We had observed a common waxbill already in Ubatuba when we were walking through the quarter Itaguá. One of the birds was on the street, but as soon as we saw the bird as soon it left again. In the botanical garden it was a little bit easier to observe this bird species. There were even two of them around.
The first and last swallow we saw in Brazil was the Southern rough-winged swallow in the botanical garden. We saw quite many of them sitting in one tree and cleaning their feathers. They were sitting close to the pond were we saw the cypress knees of the bald cypress. I looked between the swallows and the interesting plant formations back and forth.
The Southern house wren is a subspecies of the house wren (Troglodytes aedon). There are several subspecies of the house wren. House wrens are distributed across North, Central and South America. On iNaturalist the subspecies was observed both in several states of Brazil, in Mexico and in Argentina.
I encountered saffron toucanets and red-brested toucans in the Itatiaia National Park and toco toucans at the Iguazù Falls in Argentina and in the Pantanal, but it was the first time for me to see a channel-billed toucan in the Jardim Botânico. According to the IUCN this species is restricted to the north of South America, however, me and other bird observers found this bird also further south like in Rio de Janeiro.
Of course, as tanagers are very typical, diverse and widespread in Brazil, we observed some of them in the botanical garden again. One of them was a palm tanager which I knew already from the Itatiaia National Park.
I knew already most birds in the botanical garden as I had seen them before elsewhere. I encountered tropical kingbirds not only in the botanical garden, but also in Ubatuba where one bird was perching on a palm leaf.
Not all birds were so easy to observe like the masked water-tyrant. The violaceous euphonia, for example, appeared and vanished again. By the way, this was my only observation of this bird species in Brazil and I only observed one more bird species of this genus in Brazil. This was a chestnut-bellied euphonia (Euphonia pectoralis) in Ubatuba.
Other animals in the Jardim Botânico
In this blog entry I can give you only a very small insight into the flora and fauna of the Jardim Botânico in Rio de Janeiro. Even among mammals, there are so many more animals than just primates to see. However, you also need always a little bit of luck. Other mammals you can see in the botanical garden are, for example, bare-tailed woolly opossums (Caluromys philander), Northern three-striped opossums (Monodelphis americana), big-eared opossums (Didelphis aurita), crab-eating raccoons or South American raccoons (Procyon cancrivorus).
Apparently, there are also brown-throated sloths (Bradypus variegatus) occasionally seen in the botanical garden. That would have been a really, really, good animal encounter. However, we did not see any animal of this species.
Amog reptiles we spotted an Amazon lava lizard (Tropidurus torquatus) close to a small waterfall. This was the only lizard we could see. But with luck you can also observe black-and-white tegus (Salvator merianae), Boa constricors (Boa constrictor) or other snakes (Liophis sp).
Practical information for the botanical garden
How to get to the Jardim Botânico
We used public transportation to get to the Jardim Botânico in Rio de Janeiro. The botanical garden is located in the south of Rio de Janeiro at the Rua Jardim Botânico. There are several buses that pass the botanical garden. For example bus line 584 or 109 and 101 pass the Rua Jardim Botânico. You will find more information about other options on the website of the botanical garden.
More information about the Jardim Botânico
The Jardim Botânico in Rio de Janeiro opens on Monday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. From Tuesday to Sunday the botanical garden opens from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. The entrance fee is 15 R$ per person. It is possible to pay in cash, credit or debit card.
There are several entrances to the botanical garden. One entrance is in the Rua Jardim Botânico 1008 and the two other entrances in the Rua Pacheco Leão 101 and 915.
On the official website of the botanical garden you will also find a map.
Have you already been in the Jardim Botânico in Rio de Janeiro? Or can you recommend another botanical garden which is worth a visit? Please let me know in the comments.