Large Numbers of Tapirs Found in Madidi-Tambopata Landscape

First Posted: Jan 23, 2013 03:30 AM EST

A large population of lowland tapirs, Latin America's largest terrestrial mammal, is thriving in a series of connected national parks along southeastern Peru and northwest Bolivia border.

Scientists of the Wildlife Conservation Society documented a huge number of 14,500 tapirs, which are strange-looking large forest and grass-dwelling herbivores known for their unique trunk-like snout.

The WCS conducted their study based on inputs from camera traps and photographs that also included interviews with the park guards and hunters. The study is a culmination of 12 years of research that was conducted on the lowland tapirs. Through the study the scientists emphasize on the significance of this protected area for the conservation of the land mammals dwelling in Latin America.

Often mistaken for pigs and anteaters, tapirs weigh up to 661 pounds. The fleshy snout that is its unique feature is used to grab leaves and fruits. It also used as a snorkel while swimming. Tapirs are also known as seed dispersers as they help in forest regeneration. Four species of tapirs namely Baird's Tapir, Malayan Tapir, Mountain Tapir and the Lowland Tapir have been listed as vulnerable or endangered by the IUCN Red Book. These species face a severe threat from hunting, habitat fragmentation and encroachment into protected areas.

"The Madidi-Tambopata landscape is estimated to hold a population of at least 14,500 lowland tapirs making it one of the most important strongholds for lowland tapir conservation in the continent," the study's lead author Robert Wallace said in a press statement. "These results underline the fundamental importance of protected areas for the conservation of larger species of wildlife threatened by hunting and habitat loss."

With the help of camera traps, it was noticed that a booming population of tapirs were at places that fell under the protected area. With the creation of the Maddi National Park in 1995, the population has been recovering.

The Greater Madidi-Tambopata Landscape Conservation Program along with the working in collaboration with government partners from Bolivia and Peru hope to build the local ability to preserve the landscape and eliminate the threats from wildlife that harm the biodiversity.

"WCS commends our government and indigenous partners for their commitment to the Madidi-Tambopata Landscape. Their dedication is clearly paying off with well-managed protected areas and more wildlife," Julie Kunen, WCS Director of Latin America and Caribbean Programs, said in a news statement.

The details were published last month in the journal Integrative Zoology.

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