June 13, 2013

How Many Tapirs Visited This Claylick In 24 Hours?

A recent study on the Tambopata region showed that we are truly in a Tapir paradise, with numbers that have recovered from any hunting or habitat disturbance of the past due to well protected habitat over these last few decades.

A tapir crossing the Tambopata. Image by Jeff Cremer.

While reports on recovered numbers are always a good sign, what I didn't know was how many there actually were here, or if it would be difficult to get some glimpses of tapirs in the wild. Tapirs are notoriously difficult to see, as one tapir researcher I know who has spent over a year in the field has only ever seen one in person!

I was curious to know how many tapirs we have in our area, so I set up a camera trap near the Colorado Claylick at the Tambopata Research Center to take photos of any passing mammals. While the claylick is known for its spectacular displays of macaws feeding on the salty clay during the rainy season, it also has several heavily used game trails leading to it which suggest that mammals are also extensively walking into the claylick to get in on the action. I hoped some of those mammals would be tapirs.

I expecting maybe one, but what I got was far from that. Here's an example of a fairly typical night at the claylick.*

peru tambopata
At 2:35am 
tambopata peru
Right behind him at 2:37am

tambopata peru
A bit late on the action, 3:35am

Some tapir bum, 7:05pm.

peru rainforest camera trap
Getting the night started, a tapir nose, 7:55pm

Either a paca or a baby tapir... 10:55pm

There are a maximum of six tapirs, and minimum of three in these photos. Regardless of the final amount, this much tapir activity consistently in one area is very impressive, and demonstrates the importance of the claylick for our non-avian neighbors living in the rainforest around us.

*Note- while it may appear these are multiple pictures of the same individual, there are additional photos showing each one leave the camera's view (and not return), suggesting they are all different. I simply selected the photos which give the best view of the beasts.

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