fbpx
tapir

Of the countless, awe-inspiring animal and plant species that make up the diversity of life on Earth, tapirs play a particularly important role in shaping and maintaining healthy ecosystems. Known as “Gardeners of the Forest,” they consume a vast variety of plants, seeds, and fruits, then disperse the seeds through their scat. This not only improves forest health overall, but it also spreads the seeds of certain slow-growing trees with very dense wood – the very trees most important for sequestering carbon. This makes the tapir one of the world’s most heroic helpers in combating climate change; so much so, in fact, that thriving tapir populations could be critical for countries to meet their commitments to climate change agreements.

The list of other fascinating facts about the tapir is as long as its proboscis, the flexible nose-like organ that allows it to grab hard-to-reach foliage. For instance, tapirs are the most primitive large mammals in the world, having changed very little in at least 15 million years (some have called it a “Living Fossil,” another of its nicknames). And while they don’t look like rhinos, they are in the same family, with certain species weighing as much as 800 pounds. Interestingly, researchers have noted that these shy herbivores can also extremely quiet, despite their considerable size.

Today, three of our planet’s four tapir species are classified as Endangered, with fewer than 4,500 individuals each: Mountain Tapirs (Andes Mountains), Malayan Tapirs (Southeast Asia) and Baird’s Tapirs (spanning from Mexico to Colombia). Due to their large size and very slow reproductive cycle – gestation is about 400 days for one calf – tapirs are often the first species to experience the negative effects of ecosystem disturbances and poaching.

(Top Photo: Baby Baird’s Tapir, Chris Jordan/GWC)

Tapir up close in Costa Rica

A female Baird’s tapir in Corcovado National Park on the Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica. Photo by: Nick Hawkins

Restoring Tapirs Globally

 

Global Tapir Program

GWC is partnering with the Houston Zoo, US Fish and Wildlife, Zoo New England, the Tapir Specialist Group, ProCAT, Costa Rica Wildlife Foundation and others to help create more consistent, comprehensive tapir conservation efforts around the world. The Global Tapir Program aims to:

  • Help the tapir conservation community increasingly become a collaborative group ensuring tapir survival.
  • Help with conservation planning to develop stable, long-term models for tapir conservation.
  • Work with key associates to help them become global tapir leaders
  • Help local communities improve their conservation impact for tapirs and their habitat.
Tapir Survival Alliance Team

BTSA team, including facilitators and the Costa Rican Minister of Environment, Energy and Mines. Photo by: Chris Jordan.

Baird’s Tapir Survival Alliance

As part of the Global Tapir Program, GWC has joined with partners to create a working group called the Baird’s Tapir Survival Alliance (BTSA). Its mission is to ensure the survival of Baird’s Tapirs for their vital importance to the health of ecosystems – and for the human well-being, those areas provide – through direct, multi-disciplinary, and inclusive actions. The principal threats to the survival of Baird’s Tapirs include unsustainable hunting, retaliatory killings for crop raiding, habitat destruction, road development, and global climate change. Through the BTSA, we are striving to implement a collaborative, complimentary regional model for species conservation that helps to empower associates and collaborators.

Currently active in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama, the BTSA’s initiatives include a regional project to reduce tapir poaching, development of a regional BTSA awareness building program, and implementation of priority direct conservation actions such as patrols in areas of known tapir poaching, environmental education in communities that coexist with tapirs and more.

Local Action, Global Impact

The BTSA is connected to an international support network and has regional governance and financial models that accommodate each member’s unique circumstances. This support empowers members to develop successful, sustainable programs to address local threats, while also raising awareness of Baird’s Tapirs globally.

One such example was developed by a community in the Tenorio-Miravalles region of Costa Rica. In response to retaliatory tapir killings, Tapir-Friendly Families (Amigos de la Danta) was created as an economic alternative for local farmers impacted by crop raiding. The farmers began offering guided tours on their land, teaching tourists about tapirs, following their tracks, and, with luck, spotting tapirs in the wild. With our partners at Costa Rica Wildlife Foundation, GWC is helping to evaluate this tapir tourism case study to determine its effectiveness, and continue to explore conflict mitigation techniques like this across Central America.

As with all of our conservation work at GWC, the BTSA coordinates and collaborates with guardians – local, regional and national – who ensure long-term, positive change.

Armando Dans and Esteban Brenes-Mora

Armando Dans and Esteban Brenes-Mora. Photo by: Laurie Hedges

Two of our most active associates are members of the BTSA:

Esteban Brenes-Mora is a Costa Rican biologist, founder and director of Nãĩ Conservation, a member of IUCN’s Tapir Specialist Group, a ZSL EDGE fellow, and is currently working along with other Central American conservation biologists in the Baird’s Tapir Survival Alliance. Esteban helps lead the Costa Rica components of this alliance, engages with the Costa Rican System of Conservation Areas and is supported by his excellent team on the ground.

Armando Dans is a Nicaraguan conservationist who has worked as a field research and conservation actions leader for Michigan State University,  and Panthera Nicaragua for several years in the east coast of Nicaragua. He has developed a close relationship with multiple indigenous governments in Nicaragua and the regional autonomous governments in the Caribbean Coast – the region that harbors the majority of the country’s Baird’s tapirs. He is also the CO-PI of the Nicaraguan Tapir Project initiative and the Indio Maiz Patrol System, working in collaboration with the South Autonomous Government and the Rama and Kriol Territorial Government.

Mountain Tapir Survival Alliance

Through GWC’s Global Tapir Program, we are also supporting tapir conservation efforts in Colombia through ProCAT Colombia. Specifically, we will help their Tapir Conservation Coordinator to develop a stable model for tapir conservation in the country. We endeavor to use this relationship to expand our efforts to Mountain Tapirs across the species’ range in Peru and Ecuador.

Tapir portrait

Mountain Tapir. Photo by: Chris Jordan

We have also collaborated closely with ProCAT, Parques Nacionales de Colombia and others to create the Colombia Mountain Tapir Conservation Action Plan for tapirs living within national protected areas. Mountain Tapirs are a national priority species and a key indicator of the management and governance of protected areas. We are working together to jointly identify the key actions needed to promote species conservation and mitigate threats inside and outside protected areas. This plan outlines actions needed to:

  • Understand its current population status and the extent of threats to the species.
  • Evaluate community-based conservation actions needed to mitigate these threats and to improve communities’ livelihoods.
  • Strengthen protected area governance and the capacity to develop site operational plans for threat reduction.
  • Improve local, national, and international understanding and awareness of Mountain Tapirs.

Solutions

When you support GWC, you help to fund these important initiatives and vital tools for Tapir recovery:

Lock Marker Icon
Preventing Wildlife Crime

Employ solutions that mitigate conflicts between farmers and crop-raiding tapirs. Retaliatory killing of crop raiding tapirs is one of the most significant threats across the species’ range.

Lock Marker Icon
Preventing Wildlife Crime

Fund indigenous patrols in core Baird’s Tapir habitats – Darien, Indio Maiz and Moskitia to prevent poaching.

Idea Marker Icon
Drive Awareness and Education

Educate a local school in Costa Rica about Baird’s Tapirs

Idea Marker Icon
Action-Plan Coordination

Support salary for the Colombian Tapir Conservation Coordinator to manage and implement the Mountain Tapir Conservation Action Plan.

Get The Details

Stay Wild. Stay Connected.