Tapir Specialist Group
The Newsletter of the IUCN/SSC TAPIR SPECIALIST GROUP
Issue #5 of the newsletter has been produced with assistance from
Wildlife Preservation Trust, International
The Newsletter of the IUCN/SSC Tapir Specialist Group
Editor: Sharon Matola, Chairperson
Tapir Specialist Group
The views in Tapir Conservation do not necessarily reflect those
of the IUCN nor the entire IUCN/SSC Tapir Specialist Group (TSG).
The objective of Tapir Conservation is to offer the members of
the Tapir Specialist Group/IUCN/SSC and others concerned with the
family Tapiridae, news brief papers, opinions, and general
information about this threatened mammalian genus. Anyone
wishing to contribute to Tapir Conservation please send materials
Sharon Matola, Chairperson
Tapir Specialist Group/IUCN/SSC
P.O. Box 1787
Belize City. Belize
WORD FROM THE EDITOR
In issue #5 of Tapir Conservation, included are current reports
from field research, matters arising from the Tapir Advisory
Group (TAG), list of TSG members for the 1994-1996 Triennium,
and reprint offers.
If you have any news about tapirs, in the wild, in captivity,
historic, or any other information, please send to:
TAPIR SPECIALIST GROUP NEWSLETTER c/o
P.O. Box 1787
Belize City, Belize
TAPIR ADVISORY GROUP
Chair: Rick Barongi. Walt Disney Company
The first Tapir TAG mid-year meeting was hosted by the L.A. Zoo
in 1994, and had a total of 15 Participants from 10 institutions.
With the assistance of Bob Wiese and Kevin Willis from the AZA
Conservation Center, the group developed breeding
recommendations, goals and priorities for all four species of
tapirids in North American zoological facilities. This workshop
was the first step in developing a comprehensive master plan and
five year action plan. Breeding recommendations were sent out to
all zoos holding Malayan tapirs.
There are presently estimated to be 200 spaces for tapirs in
North American zoos. Almost 50 percent of these spaces are taken
up by T. terrestris (Brazilian tapir). As this is the only
species that is not severely threatened throughout its wild
range, it is the lowest priority for captive propagation. A key
result of the mid year meeting was to recommend an immediate
moratorium on the captive breeding of T. terrestris in North
American collections. While this moratorium is not meant to
eliminate the Brazilian tapir from the North American population,
it is meant to free up space for the more endangered T. indicus
(Malayan tapir) and T. bairdii (Central American tapir). The
mountain or woolly tapir, T. pinchaque. is the most endangered
tapirid in the wild. Unfortunately, the present captive
population is so small and inbred, that it is not feasible to
increase the breeding program, until new founders are available.
CURRENT POPULATION STATUS
The following is a summary of only those tapirs held in North
Malayan tapir 26.30 = 56 19 institutions
Brazilian tapir 42.48 = 90 30 institutions
Baird's tapir 19.10 = 29 9 institutions
Mountain tapir 6.3 = 9 3 institutions
1. Obtain a more accurate number for tapir holding space in
North American facilities. A tapir survey committee was formed
at the mid year meeting to deal with this issue.
2. Implement a workable program that encourages zoos to
cooperate with the moratorium on breeding T. terrestris. Enlist
the support of the AZA Contraception Advisory Group.
3. A husbandry standards/management committee was formed to
begin work on a husbandry manual. This will consolidate and
enhance the already existing AZA minimal standards and the 1993
International Zoo Yearbook article on tapirs.
4. -Finalize application for tapir SSP- and submit to WCMC for
5. Assist the IUCN/SSC Tapir Specialist Group with reviewing the
first draft of the global action plan for tapirs.
6. Develop better lines of communication with other regional
programs in Europe, Great Britain, Japan and S.E. Asia, so as to
coordinate global strategies for captive breeding.
7. Assist in any way possible to prevent the extinction of T.
pinchaque, a species in very serious trouble throughout its range
(Andes Mountains of Venezuela, Columbia, Ecuador and N. Peru).
The Tapir Veterinary Advisory Group is coordinated by Dr. Don
Janssen, San Diego Zoo, Fax: 619-557-3959. This group will
develop a medical management survey and skin disease study for
tapirs. Necropsy protocols and tissue/organ samples should be
coordinated through Dr. Janssen or Dr. Janine Brown, National
Contact Aleiandro Graial at Wildlife Conservation Society, New
York, Fax: 718-364-4275, or Sharon Matola. Belize Zoo, Fax:
PROGRESS TOWARDS GOALS
1. The first mid year tapir TAG meeting was held in April 1994
and recommendations were made on breeding strategies for T.
indicus and T. bairdii in North America.
2. The first draft of the IUCN/SSC global Action Plan was put
out for review by Sharon Matola (Belize Zoo) and Dan Brooks
3. A Tapir CAMP (Conservation Assessment and Management Plan)
and GCAR (Global Captive Action Recommendations) was held in
March 1994, and the first draft of this report is being
circulated for review by IUCN/SSC Captive Breeding Specialist
4. The first PHVA and tapir CAMP held in Panama in December
A. THE CENTRAL AMERICAN TAPIR, TAPIRUS BAIRDII
1. Field Research accomplished in Corcovado National Park.
Eduardo Naranio while studying in Costa Rica at Universidad
Nacional Programa Regional de Vida Silvestre para Mesoamerica v
el Caribe carried out nine.months of field work in the 41,789 .
hectare Corcovado National Park, looking at the ecology of T.
Naranio found that tapir abundance and use was greater for
lowland second growth forests and Raphia taediqera palm swamps
than for other habitats. Habitat preference was attributed to
more abundant and better quality food and water sources, as well
as resting sites and gentler slopes.
2. Field Research Continues in Costa Rica.
While Eduardo Naranio conducted a study of the abundance,
habitat, use and diet of the tapir in Corcovado National Park,
Costa Rica, another student in the Programa Regional de Vida
Silvestre para Meso America y el Caribe Universidad Nacional,
Charles Foerster is attempting to continue this field work by
using radio telemetry to monitor movements of six adult tapirs.
In this study, Foerster hopes to:
- Determine temporal variations in home range, habitat use and
- Describe changes in T. bairdii foraging strategy in response to
seasonal fruit production.
- Provide management guidelines for Corcovado National Park and
other protected areas which support populations of T. bairdii.
The study will be undertaken for approximately one year.
3. Prime Habitat For Central America Tapir in Belize, Central
Sponsored by Wildlife Preservation Trust, International, another
expedition to the remote Raspaculo River occurred in December
This region of Belize could become under serious threat by an up
and coming hydro electric project. Documenting the presence of
endangered species is an important annual activity.
The expedition was short and observations of wildlife activity
were documented, reports given to local NGO's and the Forestry
Department of the Government of Belize.
Tracks and faeces over a twenty km stretch of river were noted on
a 1:50,000 topographical map. Nine tapir were observed over a
six day period. A species of cane grass, abundant along the
riverbanks and noted to have been visibly browsed upon wherever
tapir tracks were present, was collected and sent to the Missouri
Botanical Garden for positive identification. This resulted in a
new plant species record for Belize, Tripsacum andersonii. While
this is a common forage plant in tropical America, it had not
been recorded from Belize until this December field
The Raspaculo River floods regularly as well as receives
frequent high winds. This results in a constant and prolific
growth of secondary vegetation; food preferred by herbivores.
Both the remote location of the Raspaculo River, which reduces
hunting pressures to zero, and the abundance of preferred food,
provides a sanctuary for populations of T. bairdii. This area of
Belize is ideally suited for a long term ecology study about the
Central American tapir.
4. Population and Habitat Viability Assessment (PHVA) for T.
bairdii in Panama.
Sponsored by the Wildlife Conservation Society, American
Airlines, and Walt Disney World Company, a PHVA for T. bairdii
was held in late 1994 in Panama.
Organized by Rick Barongi of Walt Disney World, the PHVA included
local biologists and natural resources personnel, officials from
the Species Survival Commission, the Captive Breeding Specialist
Group and the Tapir Specialist Group. The meeting was hosted by
the Panamanian NGO, ANCON.
The PHVA brought forward information about the distribution of T.
bairdii in Panama. This valuable data will be incorporated into
the upcoming Action Plan.
The captive populations of T. bairdii were the subject of long
discussion. There are 2.3 T. bairdii at the Summit Zoo in
Panama. On a private farm in El Dorado, 3.1. T. bairdii.
Rick Barongi is also the Chair of the Tapir Advisory Group which
advises breeding recommendations, goals and priorities for all
four species of tapir in North American zoos.
B. THE LOWLAND TAPIR, TAPIRUS TERRESTRIS
1. Field Research in Venezuela.
Leonardo Salas, a graduate student from Venezuela, studied T.
terrestris at a Wildlife Conservation Society research station
south of the Orinoco River. This area of lowland tropical forest
had almost no human intervention. Diet, use of habitat, and
effects of hunting by Ye'kwana Indians were documented.
Mr. Salas has a comprehensive list of the plant species eaten by
tapirs in this area. He stresses the importance of reducing the
access of people into protected areas for the maintenance of
healthy tapir populations. For more information about this work
nn4---+ T C-7- -
C. MOUNTAIN TAPIR, TAPIRUS PINCHAQUE
Various reports from the field indicate that the Mt. tapir is in
serious trouble within its remaining range in South America.
Near Quito, Ecuador, the Pasochoa Reserve has been considered as
a site for a breeding program for T. pinchaque. Although the
Pasochoa Reserve is small, it has a profile which reflects its
commitment to spread environmental education into the surrounding
Reports suggest that the local people feel proud about this area
and Fundacion Natura sees the development of a well-planned
breeding program as a strategy which could strengthen its long-
term position as a protected area.
Unfortunately, as is the case in many tropical countries, no
funds in Ecuador are available for such a project.
From previous field reports, mostly coming from Craig Downer, TSG
member and certainly the person with most experience studying Mt.
tapirs in the wild, the healthiest populations appear to be in
Ecuador's Sangay National Park. However, Downer has repeatedly
shown that encroachment from cattle invasion into Mt. tapir home
range, hunting, and road development are posing serious threats
to remaining populations of T. pinchaque.
Mt. tapir populations are fragmented. More field work needs to
be undertaken. More education needs to be implemented. The
Wildlife Conservation Society has been actively involved in
assisting Craig Downer undertake his important field studies.
Technical assistance to Ecuadoreans working with this critically
endangered species has also been made available.
MORE VISIBILITY FOR MOUNTAIN TAPIRS?
Raising public awareness about the Mt. tapir would be a positive
step to assist efforts aimed at protecting this species.
The BBC Natural History Unit has shown considerable interest in
producing a documentary film about the natural history of T.
pinchaque. Preliminary visits to Ecuador by the BBC have already
happened, in order to assess the area for such a film project.
People, living both nearby the remaining populations of Mt.
tapir, and far away from these areas, need to know the vital
ecological role this animal plays.
Field research has shown that Mt. tapirs are important for the
continuance of high Andean cloud forest and paramo ecosystems.
These animals act as a seed dispersor, both through its faeces
and by seeds clinging to its woolly coat.
The rise of the high Andes over the last few million years; and
the evolution of the Mt. tapir could have been intimately linked.
Columbian ecologists-are questioning the link-between the recent
disappearance of the country's national tree, the Quindean wax
palm, Cevoxylon quindiense, and the disappearance of the Mt.
- From field research: Craig Downer
SPECIES IN PERIL: TAPIRUS PINCHAQUE
The Mountain tapir is exclusively dependent upon the high Andes
in its naturally vegetated state, for its survival. Occurring
between 2000 4500 meters, remaining populations are now
fragmented, and it is estimated that between 1000 and 2500 are
Protecting adequately sized reserves containing preferred tapir
habitat, is the primary strategy to save the Mt. tapir.
Craig Downer, however, is strongly suggesting reintroduction
programs to secure the future of the Mt. tapir. Favourable
support for this idea from natural resources officials in
Venezuela and Columbia has been received.
From: Craig Downer, Conservation Fellow
Wildlife Conservation Society
Home Range Area as % of 1990 Area.
8 s \Su
III II I
Estimated Head of Cattle in ebrlas (D
Estimated Head of Cattle in Culebrillas
C. THE MALAYAN TAPIR, TAPIRUS INDICUS.
NO NEWS RECEIVED.
D. REPRINTS AVAILABLE.
The following reprints are available from Tapir Specialist Group
Chairperson, Sharon Matola:
1. Husbandry and conservation of tapirs, Rick Baronqi.
The Zoological Society of London, Int. Zoo. YB 1993 32: 7-15.
2. Situacion Actual del Tapir en Mexico, Ignacio J. March
Mifsut. Centro de Investigaciones Ecologicas del Sureste.
Serie Monoqrafica No. 1.
3. Bibliography for Tapiridae. Compiled by: Donald L. Janssen,
DVM, and Sherri Michelet. San Diego Zoo. Nov. 1994.
4. Wildlife Survey of the Raspaculo River, Belize, Central
America. Sharon Matola, December 1994. Report to the
Forestry Dept., Government of Belize.
Please send US$5.00 to cover foreign postage and handling.
TAPIR SPECIALIST GROUP MEMBERS
1994 1996 TRIENNIUM
1. Rick Barongi
Gen. Mgr/Animal Operations
Walt Disney Company
P.O. Box 10,200
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830-1000
2. Daniel Brooks
Houston Zoological Gardens
1513 N. MacGregor
Houston, TX 77030
3. Lorena Calvo
Wildlife Preservation Trust, Int'l
Ave. Las Americas 17-11 "A"
Zona 14, Guatemala
4. Silvia Chalukian
Panamerican Agriculture School (ZAMORANO)
P.O. Box 93
5. Craig Downer, Research Fellow
c/o P.O. Box 456
Minden, Nebraska 89423
6. John Eisenberg, PhD
Katharine Ordway Professor of Ecosystem Conservation
Fl. Museum of Natural History
P.O. Box 117800
Gainesville, PL 32611-7800
7. Karl Kranz
Vice President/Animal Mgt.
Philadelphia Zoological Gardens
3400 W. Girard Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19104
8. Ignacio March, Senior Researcher
1E Colegio de la Frontera Sur
Apartado Postal #63
29 290 San Cristobal de las Casas
9. Leonel Marineros, Biologist
Secretary of the Environment
Bella Vista, Calle 9 #814
10. Edward Ramsay, DVM
University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Dept of Comparative Medicine
P.O. Box 1071
Knoxville, TN 37919-1071
11. Oliver Ryder, PhD
Center for Reproduction of Endangered Species (CRES)
Zoological Society of San Diego
P.O. Box 551
San Diego, CA 92112-0551
12. Nico Van Strien, PhD
3941 DM Doorn