Researchers have discovered a large population of Latin America’s largest land mammal, lowland tapirs living in national parks along southeastern Peru and northwest Bolivia border.
Scientists of the Wildlife Conservation Socierty have estimated at least 14,500 lowland tapirs live in the region. Researchers say that the population is linked to five national parks in northwest Bolivia and southeastern Peru.
The WCS conducted their study based on inputs from camera traps and photographs and also interviews with the park guards and hunters. The study is a culmination of 12 years of research that was conducted on the lowland tapirs.
“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,” said the study’s lead author Robert Wallace, of WCS’s Greater Madidi-Tambopata Landscape Program, 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.”
According to the WCS, the lowland tapir is the largest terrestrial mammal in South America, weighing up to 300 kg (661 pounds). Its snout is used to reach leaves and fruit. Tapirs are found throughout tropical forests and grasslands in South America.
However, the mammals are threatened by habitat loss and especially unsustainable hunting due to their large size, low reproductive rate which is 1 birth every 2-3 years, and ease of detection at mineral licks in the rainforest.
The lowland tapirs, also known as Brazilian tapirs are considered vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, a global network of government and private groups that assesses the extinction risk of species. Their population numbers have decreased by more than 30 percent in the last 33 years, and are expected to decline by the same amount in the next 30 or so years, the ICUN reports.
Working with government partners in Bolivia and Peru, the Greater Madidi-Tambopata Landscape Conservation Program aims to build the local ability to preserve the landscape and eliminate the threats from wildlife.
Julie Kunen, WCS Director of Latin America and Caribbean Programs said: “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.”