A good question. The answer seems to be that Duolingo prefers more literal translations and would reserve that sentence as the translation of "Nós estamos olhando os animais". If you don't agree you could always ask for your answer to be accepted using the "Report a Problem" button.
Is the same in Portuguese, duolingo's sentence is about the present, and your is more specific about right now
Could you use 'olha' and 've' interchangeably? So wouldn't Eu olho os animais and Eu vejo os animais be the same thing?
Olhar means "look at" while ver means "to see" You seeing the animals and looking at, in my opinion are different and not interchangeable.
Just wondering: Could olhar also be used to mean "to watch"? If not, how would "we watch the animals" be translated? Thanks!
"To watch" translates more like "observar"... So, "Nós observamos os animais." is the translation of your sentence. The difference between "observar" and "olhar" in this case is that the former action is more passive than the latter.
This sentence should be in present tense, but according to the translation it is not.
Which translation? The model answer at the top of this page is in the present tense. Actually the "nós" form of the present tense and the past tense are identical for regular verbs like "olhar" (the Portuguese have the option of writing "olhámos" for the past tense). See: http://www.conjuga-me.net/verbo-olhar
"Look" implies a conscious act whereas "see" doesn't. "We look at the animals" because we decide to do that, but "We see the animals" because they happen to be in our line of sight.
Maybe this will come up in a lesson later on, but could this also mean "we see the animals"?
Note what Davu said above "The verb "olhar" when used in a sentence like this means "to look at" ".... So using "at" is redundant
This verb appears to be based upon olho / eye. We can use eye as a verb in English as well. He eyed the deer from behind his hiding place. So I think we can say as well - We eyed the animals.