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He is the architect of the mountain forests and paramos of the Andes of Colombia, Ecuador and Northern Peru, and the largest herbivore in this region.
The Andeann tapir or Tapirus pinchaque is known as the “architect” of the forest, because when feeding it disperses fruit seeds, such as bromeliads, ferns, grasses, herbs, shrubs and trees. Their contribution is vital for the stability of soils and the mountain forests where it lives.
Therefore, by conserving tapir populations, we conserve these habitats that impact our daily lives, as they play a key role in ensuring the maintenance and provision of water captured thanks to the dense vegetation. The stable water flow benefits the surrounding populations through agricultural activity with food and a better economy.
For all these reasons, on April 27, International Tapir Day is celebrated, a date to commemorate this important member of our mountain forests and moors. This species is key in the conservation of our nature and, however, its population is in danger of extinction, since unfortunately it could decrease by more than 50% in the next 3 decades. That is why this survivor needs us to act for its conservation.
The first step to preserve them is to recognize them; its main characteristics are its thick coat, color between copper and brown. In addition to being an excellent swimmer, runner and climber. Unlike other countries, Peru is home to the smallest species of tapirs in the world that lives in the northeast of Cajamarca, Piura and Lambayeque, at an altitude between 1400 to 4700 meters above sea level.
Another way to collaborate is by knowing the plans that the country has to conserve it. Currently, Peru has a National Plan for the Conservation of the Andean Tapir (from 2018 to 2027), whose objectives are to generate more information about the species and its habitats, as well as the creation of governance and regulatory mechanisms that allow their protection in its scope of distribution in the country.
Since 2014, WWF, in alliance with the National Service of Protected Areas of the State (SERNANP), has been working on a program for the conservation of this species, studying its threats and the importance it fulfills within the Tabaconas Namballe National Sanctuary (Cajamarca). The findings obtained have been the input for the elaboration of monitoring protocols that contribute to the effectiveness in the management of the protected area.
“The Andean tapir is a shy and elusive species, observing it directly in its habitats is very challenging. For this reason, we have managed to learn more about their populations and their ecology through non-invasive techniques such as camera traps, an activity that we currently continue hand in hand with SERNANP, and Nature and Culture International (NCI) within protected areas and conservation of the Northern Andes. Through the generation of information in these natural reserves and the strengthening and promotion of sustainable spaces that connect this landscape, we will be able to ensure the viability and survival of their populations, ”said Fabiola La Rosa, Wildlife Officer for WWF Peru.
These actions are particularly important due to the multiple threats faced by this species throughout its range of distribution, the most notable being the loss and fragmentation of their habitats, as well as the hunting of their specimens for consumption or the illegal trade of their parts for medicinal uses.
Now you know a little more about this incredible animal, it is time for all of us to start taking action so this species continues to restore our forests by living a more environmentally friendly life.