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Time For Tapirs

News item submitted by Alex Baker
News item dated 3 Mar 2011

Frontier London HQ has received some exciting news from the Costa Rica Project team, based in the Corcovado National Park, on the Osa Peninsula. Whilst conducting their regular forest hikes and survey work, some of the volunteers were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a tapir in the wild.

Tapirs are usually very wary of humans, and have highly sensitive hearing, allowing them to detect predators and other threats, and whilst tapirs can be active at all hours, they are largely nocturnal, so the team were very fortunate to spot one during the day.  Tapirs are solitary animals and tend to stick to certain well worn paths, relying on their keen sense of smell to seek out fruit and berries, and can run as fast as a human over open ground. There are three species of tapir found across Central and South America, with the tapirs of Costa Rica belonging to the species Baird’s Tapir (Tapirus bairdii,).

The presence of tapirs in the forests of Corcovado is a positive sign for the state of biodiversity within the park, as tapirs are a globally threatened species. Baird’s Tapirs are categorized by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List as “Endangered”, with tapir population sizes across Central America in overall decline. These population decreases are mainly the result of large scale habitat degradation and fragmentation as forests across Central America are cleared for agriculture, road construction and logging operations.

In Costa Rica, sport hunting is also a significant threat to tapir populations, with some hunting clubs specifically targeting tapirs as they are one of the largest wild mammal species present. Tapirs also have a relatively low rate of reproduction, with female tapirs giving birth roughly every two years to a single offspring. Pressure from habitat loss and hunting, combined with the tapirs’ low rate of birth, means that tapir populations are therefore in considerable danger. Substantial action is required if these declines in population are to be reduced or reversed.  

For more information on the Frontier Costa Rica Project, click here.

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