It was a great day for playing outdoors, so John Smith, age 8, from New York, USA, went to the park to meet with David, Geoff and Dana. When John reached the park, he realized that his friends were not there.
As he turned to leave, he saw a beautiful parrot sitting on a tree branch nearby, looking very sad.
John walked over to him, wondering why he looked so sad and if he could do anything to cheer him up.
“Hi! My name is John. What is your name?” he asked.
“My name is Riko,” he answered shyly.
“Why do you look so sad, Riko?” John wanted to know.
“Well, I have never before lived in a city and it is hard for me to adjust. All these tall buildings and traffic! I come from a place far away called the
jungle. That is my real home,” Riko replied.
John was very intrigued. He had never met anyone from the jungle.
“I have never been to a jungle!” he said. “Tell me about it.”
Riko smiled. He was very happy to have gotten a chance to talk about his home.
“The first thing you need to know is that the jungle is a forest in the tropics where the vegetation is very dense. It needs warmth and wetness to grow. It gets
warmth from the tropical sun and wetness from the rains. That is why it is also called the Tropical Rain Forest,” he explained.
“Tropical Rain Forests contain around half of all the living things on Earth. They are always hot and wet, so growing conditions are ideal for all kinds of plants – giant trees, woody creepers, ferns, shrubs, beautiful orchids and mosses. Trees grow so thickly in most parts of the jungle that their tops form a
dense leafy roof called the canopy. Giant trees poke their heads through the canopy. One of them is the kapok tree which grows to the height of a twenty storey
building,” explained Riko.
”I have never seen a tree as tall as that.” John admitted.
“Well, most plants grow and flower in the canopy. It’s dark and gloomy below. When you descend from the canopy, you enter a kind of airy half-way house -bare branchless trunks and hanging lianas, but some plants get enough light to grow. There are even plants which grow among the fallen leaves an branches on the ground,” Riko replied.
“The floor of the forest is not fertile, partly because it’s so dark, much of the light having been cut off by the leaves up in the canopy and partly because the rains wash off the nutrient that is in the soil,” Riko explained.
“Then how do the trees and other plants feed?” John asked.
“Well, most trees don’t have deep roots. Their roots are close to the surface because they have to feed on the litter of dead leaves that are continuously falling down,” answered Riko.
“And what about the insects, birds and other animals?” John couldn’t wait to find out.
“Oh! Insects are everywhere,” Riko smiled, “There is no limit to the variety of their shapes and colour! Some of them can be quite dangerous, like some spiders and scorpions. Then there are termites which will eat anything that’s in front of them, especially wood. And of course there are many different kinds o grasshoppers, giant butterflies and unusual bugs,” he said.
“What I like most is to watch the so-called ‘jungle-gliders’. These are different kinds of creatures which glide through the air. For example, you know that snakes slink along the ground or climb trees. Well, some of them also glide through the air! They use their tail to control the direction in which they wish to go,” Riko explained.
John was fascinated.
“But there are even better gliders than that. Some squirrels have a coat of hairy skin which stretches from their wrists to their ankles and enables them to glide,” Riko continued.
“As for the birds, there are eagles, toucans and beautiful parrots like myself. Even the bats are unlike bats elsewhere. Most of them feed on insects, but the jungle bats eat only fruit and nothing else!” said Riko.
John looked at him. “It all sounds so beautiful, Riko, so I still don’t understand why you are sad,” he said.
Riko answered “What I didn’t tell you, John, is that an area the size of a football field is being cut down and burned each second and many plant species are lost every day.”
“That’s terrible,” John cried. “It’s probably because most people don’t even know much about the Rain Forest and its problems, but I can introduce you to David, Geoff and Dana and you can start by telling them about it! In the meantime, I will show you that life in the city is not that bad either,” he said.
That brought a big smile to Riko’s face, and he started to sing again.