Flora and Fauna
Tikal’s abundant wildlife is most active early and late in the day, with birds and forest creatures more easily seen at these times. The summit of Temple IV, Tikal’s highest structure, is a particularly popular place at sunrise and sunset. From your position high above the forest canopy, you can watch the sun dip below (or rise above) the horizon of unbroken tropical forest as far as the eye can see, while the chatter of myriad birds and forest creatures permeates the air. The roof combs of the Great Plaza pyramids pop out from the jungle canopy as toucans dart from tree to tree with their curious yellow beaks, like bananas with big black wings.
More than 400 species of birds have been recorded at Tikal. The Birds of Tikal, by Frank Smythe, is a useful guide in this regard.
Other animals you may come across during your visit include coatis, which you should refrain from feeding. If you spend the night here, don’t be afraid if you awake to the raucous of a howling roar emanating from the forest. Sometimes confused with wild cats by first-time visitors, the sounds come from the locally abundant howler monkeys. During your explorations in Tikal, you will probably come across the smaller and ever-more-playful spider monkeys, which swing from tree to tree in the forest surrounding the ruins.
Among the park’s most fascinating creatures are jaguars. Recent studies done over a two-month span have revealed the confirmed existence of seven of these large spotted cats within the national park’s boundaries and it is thought that at least nine roam its 575-square-kilometer (222-square-mile) confines.
© Al Argueta from Moon Guatemala, 3rd Edition. Photos © Al Argueta www.alargueta.com