A thriving population of lowland tapirs was documented by Wildlife Conservation Society scientists and described in the journal Integrative Zoology. Using a combination of camera traps, along with interviews with park guards and subsistence hunters, WCS estimates at least 14,500 lowland tapirs in the region. The population bridges five connected national parks in northwest Bolivia and southeastern Peru.
The study synthesizes 12 years of research on lowland tapirs in the region. Together with WCS studies on jaguars, the results underscore the importance of this protected area complex for the conservation of Latin America's most charismatic terrestrial wildlife species.
"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. "These results underline the fundamental importance of protected areas for the conservation of larger species of wildlife threatened by hunting and habitat loss."
The lowland tapir is the largest terrestrial mammal in South America, weighing up to 300 kg (661 pounds). Its prehensile proboscis or snout is used to reach leaves and fruit. Tapirs are found throughout tropical forests and grasslands in South America. However, they are threatened by habitat loss and especially unsustainable hunting due to their large size, low reproductive rate (1 birth every 2-3 years), and ease of detection at mineral licks in the rainforest. Lowland tapirs are considered Vulnerable by the IUCN.