Tapir Specialist Group
The Newsletter of the IUCN/SSC Tapir Specialist Group.
Issue #2 of the newsletter was produced with the
support of Conservation International, Washington, DC.
The Newsletter of the IUCN/SSC Tapir Specialist Group.
Editor: Sharon Matola
The views in Tapir Conservation do not necessarily
reflect those of the IUCN nor the entire IUCN/SSC
Tapir Specialist Group (TSG).
Special thanks to Conservation International for
The objective of Tapir Conservation is to offer the
members of the Tapir Specialist Group/IUCN/SSC and
others concerned with the family TaDiridae, news brief
papers, opinions, and general information about this
threatened mammalian genus. Anyone within to contribute
to Tapir Conservation can send material to:
Sharon Matola, Chairperson
Tapir Specialist Group/IUCN/SSC
P.O. Box 474
Belize City, Belize
Word From The Editor
TAPIR SPECIALIST GROUP UPDATE
Thanks to all who have sent letters and articles to me
since last September. Your input is greatly appreciated
and has contributed to this second issue of TAPIR CONSERVATION.
Last year, many people were contacted for the inclusion of
their data in our Action Plan Report, but the response was
low. So please note that a questionnaire is again being
sent your way via Issue #2. If you have responded already,
please pass the Action Plan form along to someone who may
be able to provide additional data. If you haven't re-
sponded, or were not on the original list of Action Plan
report recipients, please take a few moments to include
your thoughts about the species Tapiridae which you are
This Action Plan will be the first document ever published
detailing the conservation priorities for the four extant
species of tapir. Don't miss out on the opportunity to
be part of this important and historic work.
I will be serving as Chairperson for the Tapir Specialist
Group for the next triennium and look forward to working
with all members as we attempt to develop sound conservation
strategies which will help to see the preservation of all
four species of tapir realized.
Again, my thanks to all who have been in communication. And
I look forward to an active Tapir Specialist Group network
during the upcoming months.
NEWS FROM THE FIELD
1. CAPTIVE BREEDING OF T. BAIRDII TO BEGIN IN PANAMA
At the Summit Zoo in Panama City, Panama, and in a private
facility in Escondido, 300 miles to the north, two separate
but collaborative breeding programs are beginning for the
Central American tanir, T. bairdii.
A total of nine animals will be shared between both
facilities. At this time, a young male tapir is being
transferred from Escondido to the Summit Zoo on a
The primary goal of these programs is to breed for re-
introduction back into protected forested areas in Panama
that were once inhabited by tapir. Before protected status
was granted to these wild lands, hunting pressures led to
the disappearance of some local tapir populations in
forests nearby the Summit Zoo.
The Summit Zoo is contingent with a 22,000 hectare National
Park which provides good habitat for the Central American
tapir, and at one time supported a healthy population of
The breeding programs just beginning now in Panama, may
see the eventual return of T. bairdii to these particular
Initial contact with both Panamanian facilities was the
work of Rick Barongi, Curator of Mammals at the San Diego
Zoo and Tapir SSP coordinator. The Escondido tapir group,
once the property of the disposed dictator, Manuel Noriega,
were in need of proper care and management. Barongi pro-
vided emergency funds and a plan for the future. A tapir
"Summit Meeting", held at the Summit Zoo in late February
1991 and attended by the Escondido officials, Dr. Monica
Brenes of the Summit Zoo, and other Panamanian conservation
personnel, as well as Sharon Matola, Chairperson for the
Tapir Specialist Group, resulted in amenable agreements
between Escondido and the Summit Zoo.
Working together, animals will be shared by both facilities.
Their goal, reproduction for ultimate reintroduction into
healthy Panamanian forests, was strongly agreed upon by
the Summit and Escondido officials.
Acquisition of further funds will lead to the improvements
of tapir facilities both at the Summit and Escondido. Other
actions resulting from the Tapir Summit meeting:
A tapir conservation masterplan for Panama will be
developed with recommendations for the preservation of the
tapir in the wild, programs for reintroduction, and exchanges
with animals in the USA tapir SSP program.
Beginning next year, a captive research project will
be jointly conducted by CEPEPE in Panama and the Zoological
Society of San Diego.
Dr. Monica Brenes of CEPEPE, Rick Barongi of the
Zoological Society of San Diego, and Sharon Matola of
IUCN will begin preliminary work for developing a Central
American Faunal Interest Group, hoping to create a formal
network of information exchange between Central American
countries and promoting the transfer of scientific
technology from USA institutions to facilities in Central
2. More News On Species Reintroduction in Panama.
Nicholas Smythe of the Smithsonian Tropical Research
Institute has written a plan for the establishment of
a center for rehabilitation and reestablishment of locally
extinguished species in the Panama Canal area.
The proposed site would be located within the Parque Nacional
Soberania and the protracted duration of this project would
be at least fifteen years. Species that are being targeted
for reintroduction in these forests of the Panama canal
watershed are red spider monkeys, Ateles geoffroyi, Central
American tapirs, Tapirus bairdii, and white-lipped peccaries,
1. Prime Habitat for Central American Tapir Explored
Sharon Matola, TSG Chairperson
Applying for a position on a scientific expedition intending
to investigate an unexplored region in the Maya Mountains of
Belize was facilitated by my association with the IUCN Tapir
Sponsored by the Royal Geographic Society, British Museum of
Natural History, and British Forces, the six week long
expedition studied the flora, fauna, and geology of this
previously unexplored region.
My interest in documenting activity and populations of the
Central American tapir, T. bairdii, an endangered species,
was well rewarded. A total of four animals were sighted
duringvthe expedition, and both faeces and tapir tracks
The forests in this area, inundated by seasonal flooding
and affected by hurricane-force winds approximately every
fifteen years (Hartshorn et al. 1984), are in a continual
state of succession. This secondary-growth vegetation,
predominant throughout the study area, is preferred food
for T. bairdii (Fragoso 1987), and this, along with the
availability of water the Raspaculo River and its many
tributaries, afford prime habitat for the species.
The remote location of the study area provides a natural
no-hunting sanctuary, those tapirs sighted were unafraid
of human presence.
All of the above-mentioned factors have led to flourishing
populations of T. bairdii in the Upper Raspaculo region of
The Government of Belize is discussing the possibility of
declaring a Maya Mountain Biosphere Reserve in the near
future. It is hoped that the expedition report will lead
to the agreement that the Upper Raspaculo region of the
Maya Mountains will serve as a core area for the continual
preservation of the wildlife found here, as well as for the
protection of the valuable watershed.
Tapir Specialist Group members interested in receiving a
detailed report of the mammal survey from the Upper
Raspaculo, focusing upon T. bairdii, should send US$5.00
Sharon Katola, Chairperson
Tapir Specialist Group/IUCN/SSC
P.O. Box 474
Belize City, Belize (Central America)
1. Fragoso, J. 1987. The habitat preferences and social
structure of tapirs. M.S. Thesis, Univ. of Toronto,
2. Hartshorn, G. et al. 1984. Belize: country env. profile,
a field study. Trejos Hnos. Sucs. San Jose, C.R.
1. UPDATE: Mountain Tapir, Tapirus pinchaque.
Craig Downer, in the field in Sangay National Park,
Ecuador, studying the ecology of the Mountain Tapir.
T. pinchaque, as part of his PhD dissertation, has kept
The Tapir Specialist Group well-advised on the progress
he has been making.
At least four animals now have radio collars, and more
data, particularly as it involves their migratory patterns,
should become available within the next year. The Mountain
Tapir appears to migrate annually. Natives in both Columbia
and Ecuador report that during the wet half of the year,
October to May, populations move to high, open paramo. When
the drier half of the year arrives, June to September, the
populations return to the upper fringe of the cloud forest.
However, the paucity of technical field work has never
adequately supported these local observations. Craig
Downer's work will lead to a far greater understanding of
Mountain Tapir ecology.
To date, findings during the dry season have shown that the
older tapir does not wander as much as the younger tapirs.
Craig Downer believes that this may be due to the younger
animals not carving out their niche as yet.
Another site, located further south of Sangay National Park,
Podocarpus National Park, appears to be an ideal site for a
study of T. pinchaque. Unlike Sangay National Park, this
park is not being encroached upon by cattle ranching.
Craig Downer is hoping to secure funding in order to place
ARGOS transmitters on tapirs in Podocarpus N. P.
More data of interest is that to the southwest of Sangay
National Park lies the Rio Mazan Reserve. While reports
prevail about the extirpation of T. pinchacue from this
Forest Reserve, Craig Downer has reported hat the possibility
of a small population of T. pinchaque living in an isolated
corner of this region still exists. He hopes to verify
Craig Downer's on-going study of the Mountain Tapir is
being adopted as a field project by Wildlife Conservation
International, (WCI), as part of their initiative to
preserve Ecuador's cloud forests.
2. Possibility of Expanding Protected Areas !
Officials in Quito are considering the incorporation of
other forest zones surrounding Sangay National Park to
assist in the preservation of T. pinchaaue populations
in that area:
ii't(n;svw do tfacsltwsa q qnadpam
Q2uio l caadot
oftido. u U 2j
Quito, r ,-
Sharon Matola Chairperson
TAPIR SPECIALIST GROUP/IUCN/SSG
Belize, America Central.-
De mis consideraciones:
En atenci6n a su oficio de 23 de diciembre de 1990, en el que
solicit tomar en consideraci6n la propuesta del Sr. Craig
Downer, que se refiere a la preservaci6n del Tapirus pinchaque
en el Parque Nacional Sangay.
Al respecco esta Subsecretaria agradece por la propuesca indi-
cada, la misma que ha sido tomada en consideracion en los es-
tudios de factibilidad que se estan realizando, para incorporar
otras zonas aledaias al Parque Nacional Sangay, donde la present
cia del Tapirus pinchaque es frecuente.
Ing. Mord inuez R.,
SUBSECRETARIO FORESTAL Y DE
RECURSOS NATURALS DENOVABLES
1. Two Year Study of Lowland Tapir, Tavirus terrestris,
in Northeast Argentina.
Silvia Chalukian, undertaking fieldwork as part of the
Program Regional Manejo de Vida Silvestre in Herredia,
Costa Rica, will be studying the status and habitat of
T. terrestris in northeast Argentina. She reports that
no studies of T. terrestris have ever been accomplished
in Argentina, and the field program will most likely
start in 1992.
The main objectives of this two year study are to obtain
general information about the distribution and abundance
of T. terrestris in this region of Argentina.
Fieldwork will be carried cut during the dry season months,
between April and October, proceeded by comprehensive
planning involving liasons between conservation NGOs, as
well as the appropriate park and government officials.
Besides documenting the T. terrestris populations, other
species of fauna will be noted: jaguar, Panthera onca,
peccaries, Tayassudae sp., and cervids.
In the study area, a land-use evaluation will be made,
taking into consideration the human impact being made
in the region by the local inhabitants and logging
Future issues of TAPIR CONSERVATION will report on progress
being made by Silvia Chalukian in Argentina.
Daniel Brooks, working as a Research Associate for the
Zoological Society of San Diego, undertook a one-year
study in the Paraguayan Chaco. He has produced some
interesting data on Tapirus terrestris spegazzini as
part of his investigations of the life histories of
neotropical forest ungulates.
The primary purpose of his study was to determine the
status for T.t. spegazzini. Although South American
tapirs are usually associated with consistently humid
forests, the chacoan subspecies is an exception to the
rule (Redford, et al. 1990). The chaco is essentially
a vast conglomeration of habitats Andean forest from
the west, wetland from the north, rainforest from the
east, and pampas from the south.
The Paraguay River runs along the eastern boundary of
the upper chaco; forming the southwestern periphery of
Brazil's vast Pantanal the largest, most intact wet-
land existing on today's planet. In the central chaco,
tajamars (man-made pondlets) and filled gulleys seasonally
support water from massive rains.
The majority of the central Paraguayan chaco has been
cleared for cattle lands.
The Localities Map shows sites where tapir tracks were
found. The most concentrated tapir populations were
found in the vicinity of Cerro Leon, Defensores del Chaco
National Park, where little human disturbance occurs (locales
The size of T.t. snegazzini is large in proportion to other
subspecies of the South American tapir. The chacoan tapir
tracks measured were found to be 23% larger than those from
areas in Peru (Emmons 1990). Also, the hide of the chacoan
tapir is thicker and serves as protection from the thorny
vegetation which is more concentrated than in typical
tapir (rainforest) habitat.
All tracks revealed monogamous individuals. The exception
being a juvenile, recorded proximally to an adult in late
September (early spring). Judging by numerous strategic
track locations and size demography, it is hypothesized that
the offspring wanders further from the adult as age increases.
Dan Brooks' year long study shows that T.t. spegazzini
appears to be stable at present in the middle to upuer
Paraguayan chaco. The major threat to most species of
tapir is habitat destruction. The chacoan subspecies
appears more tolerant of human development. Also, because
of the animal's extremely thick hide, they are protected
from predators i.e. large felids.
Unfortunately, the thickness of the hide of the chacoan
tapir makes it an ideal material for leather. Brooks
found that tapir sandals are frequently purchased by
tourists as souvenirs.
Besides the sandal industry having some impact on
populations, a further potential threat is the pet
trade. The Paraguayan aristocracy often keep pet
tapirs on their vast lawns. The animals are often
poorly cared for and many times succumb to malnutrition,
resulting in more animals being taken from the wild.
/N100 km. /
Locale 1 Estancia Madregadda
Locale 2 Dr. Ferrer's Estancia
Locale S Estancia Toledo
Locale 4 Estancia San Jose
Locale 5 60 km. N. of Fernheim boundary limits.
Locale 6 35 km. S. of Teniente Martinez.
Locale 7 1 km. S. of Peniente Martinez.
Locale 8 2 km. S. of Cerro Leon foot.
Locale 9 10 km. S.W. of Cerro Leon.
1. Emmons, L.H. 1990. Neotropical Rainforest Mammals: a
field guide. University of Chicago Press. pp. 255-257.
2. Redford, K.H., A. Taber and J.A. Simonetti. 1990. "There
is more to biodiversity than the tropical rainforest",
Conservation Biology. 4(3).
F. Lowland Tapir, T. terrestris, in Peruvian Amazaon
From: Richard E. Bodmer
Dept. of Zoology
University of Cambridge
"Responses of Ungulates to Seasonal Inundations in the
This study examined the effects of seasonal inundations on
certain Amazon ungulates: red brocket deer, Mazama americana,
grey brocket deer, M. gouazoubira, collared peccary, Tayassu
tajac, white-lipped peccary, T. pecari, and the lowland
tapir, T. terrestris, and their adaptations to cope with
large scale floods.
The study area was located in tropical forests of the
Peruvian Amazon which included the river systems of the
upper Rio Tahuayo and Quebrado Blanco, which lie 100 km
southeast of Iquitos.
Richard Bodner found that the lowland tapir and white-lipped
peccary frequently used floodplain forests while brocket
deer and collared peccary tended to avoid these lowland
Both the lowland tapir and white-lipned peccary were least
affected by seasonal inundations. Both species' diets,
during high water and then low water, barely varied. In
particular, for the lowland tapir:
High water Low water
Graminae 94.0 Graminae 100.0
Mauritia flexuousa 89.0 Mauritia flexuousa 67.0
This study was supported by the Chicago Zoological Society.
Study area: Richard E. Bodmer
The study area (Figure 1) was located in tropical forests of the Peruvian Amazon
and included the river systems of the upper Rio Tahlayo and Quebrada Blanco
situated approximately 100 km southeast (f Iquitos. 'lle Rio Tahuayo is a
black water river approximately 85 km in length with its principle channel run-
ning parallel to the Amazon. Water level of the Rio Tahuayo is regulated almost
entirely.by the Amazon because it flows within the Amazon flnodplain. Vir-
tually all forests surrounding the Rio Tahuayo are inundated by high water
(Figure 2). During these periods the Rio Tahuayo is fed in ils upper reaches by
floodwater from the Rio Ucayali and in its middle and lower reaches by flood-
water from the Amazon.
figure 1. Map of the study area showing seasonal inundated forests (shaded area) and non-flooded
forests (nl shaded). The arrows depict inflow of water from the Ucayali and Amazon ti\cri.
G. CORRECTION FROM TAPIR CONSERVATION issue #1
1. Tapirus indicus in Sumatra.
The map of Sumatra showing the distribution of
T. indicus in Gunung Leuser, northern Sumatra, and in the
areas of 2 and 4 respectively, is incorrect data,
according to Dr. Nico van Strien of Zomba, Malawi.
Dr. van Strien states that in the northern quarter
of Sumatra, and throughout the island of Borneo, the
Malayan tapir has been extirpated.
Tapir Folklore: Dr. Nico van Strien reports that
local folklore suggests that tatirs are said to sleep
very deeply Pnd to snore loudly. One can easily creep
up to a sleeping tapir and tie its legs.
F. Establishing a Database on Morphometrics and Immobilization
Drug Dosages for the Tapiridae from TSG member Chris Wemmer
As we are all aware, there is a paucity of basic information
on the biology of tapirs. Even morphometric data on the four
species of living tapirs is sparse, so we are trying to
establish a data base. In the course of the National Zoo's
Zoo Biology and Animal Management Training Program, we have
attempted to compile morphometric and immobilization drug
information using captive tapirs in Malaysia and Singapore,
and Brasil. The program has been running for two and a
half years. Our project was initiated as a class exercise
on large mammal immobilization, but we seized the opportunity
to develop a set of measurements for comparison between species,
and to determine whether any biometric sex differences exist
in these monomorphic species. As you can see from the
attached data form, we also examined the teeth to learn about
eruption sequences and wear. Our ultimate goal is to generate
general information that will be of use to researchers in the
field and in captivity.
We hope the morphometrics data form will interest our colleagues
in collecting this information as opportunities become available
in zoos and the field, and we welcome comments and suggestions
as to its use. We were able to immobilize and measure 15
captive Malayan tapirs in Malaysia and Singapore during our
Zoo Biology Training Course, and we have also been able to
enlist the help of a few North American zoos in expanding the
data base. The measurements require a plastic tailor's tape,
a small vernier calipers for tooth measurements, and a
forester's calipers with a jaw depth of 0.5 m. Dr. J. Andrew
Teare, veterinarian at the Milwaukee County Zoo, an instructor
with our program, is maintaining the chemical immoblilization
database using the ISIS software program MedArks. Dr. Teare
is willing to share his information with other veterinarians,
and is interested in learning of their experiences in this
During our training course at the Sao Paulo Zoo in December
1988, we had the opportunity to test the "radio-collar retention
ability" of a couple of captive Brasilian tapirs. Our collar,
made by Telonics for white-tailed deer, failed the test
because the tapir's "tapered" neck. We did not cinch the
collars tightly for obvious reasons, but we thought that as
in deer, the ears and general body carriage would prevent
the animal from dropping the device. This wasn't the case:
the collars were shed within a hour after attachment! After
two attempts, we carefully measured the neck and recorded
the cross-sectional dimensions. We are reasonably confident
that a form fitting collar could be constructed that would
1991 TAPIR SPECIALIST GROUP NETWORK
1; Mr. Rick Barongi
Curator of Mammals
Zoological Society of San Diego
P.O. Box 551
San Diego, CA 92112
2. Richard E. Bodmer, PhD
Museum Paraense Emilio Goeldi
Caixa Postal 399
3. Mr. Dan Brooks
Texas Tech University
Dept. Biological Sciences
Lubbock, TX 7949-3131
4. Ms. Silvia C. Chalukian
Program Regional Manejo de Vida Silvestre
Heredia, Costa Rica
5. Mr. Milton R. Cabrera
Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala
Escuela de Biologia
Ciudad Universitaria, Guatemala 10102
6. Mr. Alfredo D. Cuaron
Col. del Valle
Mexico DP C.P. 13100
7. Mr. Michael Dee
Los Angeles Zoo
5333 Zoo Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90027
8. Mr. Craig Downer
P.O. Box 456
Minden, NV 89423
9. Mr. Joe Fragoso
Dept. of Natural Sciences
10. Mr. Bill Konstant
1015 18th St. NW
Washington, DC 20036
11. Mr. Karl Krantz
Philadelphia Zoological Gardens
34th St. and Girard Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19104
12. Mr. Sukianto Lusli
Jamhlang raya 1-17
13. Ms. Sharon Yatola, Director
The Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center
P.O. Box 474
Belize City, Belize
14. Dr. Choompol Ngamnongsai
Sept. of Conservation
Faculty of Forestry
15. Ed Ramsay, DVM
Zoological Medicine/University of Tennessee
Knoxville, TN 37901-1071
16. Dr. Oliver A. Ryder
Zoological Society of San Diego
P.O. Box 551
San Diego, CA 92112
17. Mr. Phairot Suvanakorn
Deputy Director General
Royal Forest Dept.
18. Dr. Charles Santianillai
P.O. Box 133 Bogor
Java Barat 16001
19. Mr. Alan Shoemaker
P.O. Box 1060
Columbia, S.C. 29202-1060
20. Dr. Nico J. van Strien
P.O. Box 537
21. Mr. Chris Vaughan, Director
Wildlife Graduate Program
Campus Omar Dengo
22. Dr. Chris Wemmer
National Zoological Park
Conservation and Research Center
Front Royal, VA 22630
23. Mr. Bill Zeigler
12400 S.W. 152nd St.
Miami, FL 33177
Please send written contributions for the next TSG newsletter to:
Sharon Katola, Chairperson
Tapir Specialist Group
P.O. Box 474
Belize City, Belize
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