A group of scientists recently came together with park rangers and native communities to solve a difficult question:
How many tapirs are there in the Greater Madidi-Tambopata Landscape of northwest Bolivia and southeastern Tambopata Peru?
Tapir crossing the Tambopata River. Image by Jeff Cremer.
These are the largest mammal in the Amazon, but their large size doesn’t mean they’re easy to find. In fact, they are notoriously really difficult to see, and most researchers and guides I know who work in the Amazon have only seen a handful due. These odd-looking creatures look similar to a horse but are actually more closely related to the rhinoceros.
My only sighting wasn’t by my eyes, but by my camera trap I set up, a video of which can be seen here. Researchers for this study used this same camera-trap technique, in which you put motion and infra-red detecting cameras in areas of high mammal activity in order to monitor and detect populations.
While many mammal studies rely entirely on camera trap images, these researchers also included the one thing that could give them insight to how the populations have changed over time: humans.
They interviewed park rangers and native hunters to further gain insight into the animal behavior, the hang outs, and the numbers. The combined data suggested that tapir populations are increasing throughout most of this range due to ecotourism projects and government efforts which help protect the forest and minimize hunting.
The analysis suggested that there are between 15,000 and 35,000 tapirs in this range- possibly more tapirs than there are humans! To read the full study, check it out here.
Note the ticks on the tapir's head and the odd snout.
Image by Jeff Cremer.
- Go on a hike in the rainforest with a trained guide: To spot a one of these incredible animals you need and eagle eye or a rainforest specialist guide as ours. To practice your eagle eye, download your Amazon Rainforest Animal identification guide and the beautiful illustrated plate of Amazon mammals.
- Sign up for a Free Trial of the Wired Amazon: even if Amazon Travel is not in your short-term plans you can connect with Amazon wildlife. Sign-up for your free trial of the Wired Amazon and help us identify the Amazon wildlife that is on the photos taken by our 20 square kilometer grid of 78 cameras snapping away in the middle of the Amazon jungle.
- And of course, when you travel to the Amazon you know who to chat with. We will help you get here.