Often referred to as the “gardeners of the forest,” tapirs play an important role in shaping and maintaining the ecosystems of which they are a part. As herbivores, they consume hundreds of different species of plants, seeds and fruits, helping improve forest health by dispersing seeds through their scat—seeds that grow into trees that help fight climate change by sequestering carbon.
Tapirs, however, are suffering as a result of human disturbance to those same ecosystems, primarily from the destruction of habitat, unsustainable hunting, road development through core areas of their habitat and climate change. Three of our planet’s four tapir species—Mountain Tapirs, Baird’s Tapirs, Malayan Tapirs and Lowland Tapirs—are threatened with extinction. Experts estimate that there are only 2,000 Mountain Tapirs, between 4,500 and 5,000 Baird’s Tapirs, and fewer than 2,500 Malayan Tapirs left in the world. Despite this, few consistent, long-term tapir conservation programs exist, which hinders progress for these charismatic ungulates as their populations decline in nearly every range country.
To address the lack of consistent, long-term, comprehensive tapir conservation programs, Global Wildlife Conservation, through its Global Tapir Program is partnering with the Tapir Specialist Group, to establish species-specific working groups that work to develop long-term, stable conservation programs wherever tapirs occur. In the initial years of this program, GWC and partners are creating working groups for the two species that are arguably the most imperiled tapir species globally: Mountain Tapir and Baird’s Tapir (GWC is already helping lead efforts to conserve Baird’s Tapir in Nicaragua).
Overall the Global Tapir Program aims to:
- Establish a working group for each species that works to achieve consistent range-wide conservation progress.
- Establish country-level representatives for each species that are actively working to conserve the species and a regional coordinator working on range-wide fundraising for conservation and coordination.
- Help the tapir conservation community move from being a largely collaborative academic group to being a collaborative group ensuring the survival of tapir species.
- Collaborate with each working group to develop conservation benchmarks for the group to accomplish, ensuring consistent conservation momentum for all four species.
- Help local communities improve their conservation impact for tapirs and their habitat.
# of tapir species
Mountain Tapirs left
Baird's Tapirs left
~4,500 t0 5,000
Malayan Tapirs left
Fewer than 2,500