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Thriving Population of Lowland Tapirs Documented in South America

Jan 23, 2013 07:32 AM EST

(Photo : Reuters)

Researchers have documented a thriving population of at least 14,500 lowland tapirs in Peru and Bolivia's Madidi-Tambopata landscape.

Lowland tapirs are strange forest and grassland-dwelling herbivores with trunk-like snouts. They are South America's largest land mammals and are found in a network of remote national parks, spanning the Peru-Bolivia border.

Using camera traps and taking interviews of park guards and subsistence hunters, scientists from Wildlife Conservation Society estimated that a population of at least 14,500 lowland tapirs survive in the Madidi-Tambopata landscape.

"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 statement. "These results underline the fundamental importance of protected areas for the conservation of larger species of wildlife threatened by hunting and habitat loss."

Tapirs, which weigh over 650 pounds, are threatened by various factors like habitat loss, unsustainable hunting due to their large size, and low reproductive rate. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has categorized the species as "vulnerable".

Thanks to various conservation efforts carried out by WCS, the population of lowland tapirs is recovering well. Camera traps revealed that the tapirs are found in abundance in protected areas rather than in unprotected sites.

"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," said Julie Kunen, WCS director of Latin America and Caribbean Programs.

The details of the findings are published in the journal Integrative Zoology.

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