Project Overview

The Indio-Maíz Biosphere Reserve in Nicaragua is one of the country’s last strongholds for the Baird’s Tapir (Tapirus bairdii), a species considered a “living fossil” because the species’ body shape hasn’t changed much over the past 35 million years, according to Arkive. Today there are less than 500 left in Nicaragua. The reserve is also a safe haven for Jaguars (Panthera onca), the Americas’ largest wild cat.

A rapidly encroaching cattle-ranching frontier and high rates of illegal poaching, however, threaten the reserve. GWC is working here to combine research projects on jaguar and Baird’s tapir ecology with forest conservation initiatives to ensure the survival of this biodiverse region and two of its most emblematic species of wildlife. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species lists Baird’s Tapir as Endangered and the Jaguar as near threatened.

The project’s largest two efforts in the reserve are the Nicaragua Tapir Project, which revolves around a Baird’s tapir GPS telemetry project and community-based tapir conservation, and a collaborative effort with Panthera and a diversity of local partners to set up a functioning, sustainable forest ranger program within Indio-Maíz. Our work in Nicaragua relies on partnerships with the local, autonomous governments, indigenous communities, and other NGOs active in Nicaragua. In coming years, GWC and partners hope to expand the project’s focus to other important wildlife habitat outside of Indio-Maíz and biodiversity inventories.

Project Goals

Our overarching objective is to ensure the survival of the Indio-Maíz Biosphere Reserve and two of its most emblematic species, Jaguars and Baird’s Tapirs. On our path to achieving this long-term objective, we have carried out a variety of activities since 2012, including conservation forums, hunting incentive programs, environmental education efforts, press campaigns, and research programs designed to support and directly contribute to the conservation of these species.

Achieving this objective necessitates direct conservation action based on sound scientific research and proven methods, in addition to strong alliances with local and regional authorities and NGOs. Since 2009, members of our team have worked to build the alliances and partnerships needed to achieve conservation objectives on a large scale and at a high enough level to ensure the institutionalization of conservation activities. In light of this, the 2015-2016 goals of this project are:

To enhance our understanding of Baird’s Tapir spatial ecology by collecting GPS telemetry data on 10 additional Tapirs in Indio-Maíz.
We will use these data on tapir home-range size, abundance, and land and resource requirements, in addition to data collected in recent years, to complete a Nicaraguan Baird’s Tapir Conservation Action Plan.

To begin to expand our Indio-Maíz Forest Ranger Program.
We have equipped and trained 12 forest rangers from three different indigenous Rama and afro-descendant Kriol communities that reside within the borders of Indio Maíz. Since the second half of 2015, they have been collecting field data for our Indio-Maíz database, which is co-managed by the Rama-Kriol Territorial Government. Our 2016 objectives are to expand this program by training and activating more forest rangers from additional Rama and Kriol communities in Indio-Maíz and continue meeting with local, territorial, regional, and national authorities to implement a plan for applying the information contained in reports and improving environmental law enforcement in the reserve.

To conduct outreach and environmental education activities for youth in cattle-ranching communities along the borders of Indio-Maíz.
These communities are the primary sources of illegal poachers and illegal migrants in Indio-Maiz. Environmentally focused intervention is vital.

Quick Facts


Baird’s Tapirs (Tapirus bairdii) and Jaguars (Panthera onca)

Habitat type

Lowland tropical rainforest, Raphia palm swamps


Central America

Local partners

Rama-Kriol Territorial Government, Autonomous Secretariat of Natural Resources and the Environment (SERENA), The Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment (MARENA), The Nicaraguan National Zoo

Related Blog Posts

Additional GWC Projects in Central America