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Tapir or Tapir


Dantas in the world

Illustrations Stephen Nash

I UCN / CSS / Tapir Specialist Group

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In 2022, the Danta Station begins scientific activities in the territory of the Josemiguel Nuevita máma kággaba , a region with the current presence of the last tapirs, tapirs or bicha, Colombian Tapirus terrestris, Hershkovitz 1954   in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta La Guajira. It is the reaction to the emergency of local extinction of this species due to hunting and transformation of the habitat from primary forest to pasture for cattle. From this place a new census is started to know the current quantitative condition of this population, as a starting point for in-situ management aimed at establishing a new population of tapirs in the Tayrona Park where until the beginning of the century the tapir existed and currently It is extinct for the National Natural Park. The objective is to graduate a very important species for the Ecology of the Park and at the same time establish a population of this Perissodactyl in a protected area, since the last tapirs are found outside the two National Natural Parks of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.

Colombia is the only country that currently has the three species of tapirs or tapirs of America alive and free within its territory and a new species recently reported , which causes controversy and that we still do not assume as such ( report that questions the discovery ), but if we highlight the news that anyway produces astonishment. The Nativa Foundation dedicates its work to the defense of these animals as a KEY species. If we stop destroying the territory of the largest species, the biodiversity that lives with it, even man, benefits in passing.

The tapir, tapir or bitcha is the largest native land mammal in Central and South America, it shares ancestors with the horse and the rhinoceros. In the world there are four species of tapirs or tapirs fully identified, in America ( Tapirus terrestris, Tapirus pinchaque, Tapirus bairdii ,) and one in Malaysia and Indonesia ( Tapirus indicus ).

The presence in Colombia of tapirs or tapirs dates from the North - South American animal migration around 2.5ma , when the isthmus of Panama began to form 15 to 13 million years ago. With a gestation between 13 - 14 months and a single offspring, it makes its main threat to extinction is hunting, followed by the destruction of the primary forest vital for the reproduction of this species.

Its presence is an indicator of the health of the forest, the role as a specialist disperser herbivore of seeds of many species of native trees and on the other hand, being the largest herbivore, it has a control effect on those very abundant seeds, they define it as determining designer of the forest. Of nocturnal and territorial habits, monogamous of difficult observation in freedom.

The Tapir of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta,

3rd place Conservation Award

of wild fauna.

The Tapir of the Sierra Nevada del Caribe

A mammal with a lot of history to tell ...

Described Tapirus terrestris colombianus by the North American mammalogist Philip Hershkovitz in 1954 , based on a young male specimen captured in the Department of Cesar, in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. Today, this sub-species can be found in some forests of Boyacá, Santander, Norte de Santander, Cesar, Bolívar, Magdalena, Antioquia, Sucre, Córdoba, La Guajira and possibly Chocó. The tapir of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is the most threatened of all, as this is a small, isolated population surrounded by strong human pressure.

On December 21, 2007, the first photo of the tapir of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is known in the Buenavista nature reserve, made by the former hunter, now a conservationist, WIllian Peñaloza "Chapolo" , thanks to the Autonomous University of Mexico that donated three analog camera traps and the Tapir Preservation Fund that contributed to the training of farmers and indigenous people on the handling of these cameras and their installation in the jungle. This is how the first photographic evidence was achieved, after the report by Ralf Strewe with Cristobal Navarro in 2002 and Emilio Constantino on the presence of the tapir in La Guajira - Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in 2005 . Subsequently, the Nativa Foundation together with the NGO Defensores de la Naturaleza developed scientific projects with the support of Corpoguajira, to learn about these animals through studies on the current and historical distribution of the tapir in the Sierra Nevada , Contributions to the use of habitat and the first genetic investigations of this population .

The conservation work of the Fundación Nativa around the tapir of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta during the last 15 years has allowed us to experience the evolution of the social environment and its impact on the jungles where these mammals still live. At the beginning of the XXI century, the territory between the basins of the Palomino and Rioancho rivers in La Guajira were inhabited by indigenous people, peasants, armed groups and tapirs in their jungles, the cocaine economy prevailed. This condition made it difficult to carry out scientific research in the field, however, the leadership of local farmer Carlos Fernandez Rueda made it possible for the studies to be developed.

Indeed, many trees were cut down to establish coca leaf crops, in several cases forests that had recovered from the marijuana bonanza. The armed euphoria to protect this lucrative business made it clear that it was not a good idea to go to the jungles to hunt, due to the great probability of meeting death. This war condition in a certain way prevented the hunting of various tapirs for a long time and in the same way stopped the growth of the cattle frontier.

The atmosphere of fear reached unsuspected levels until the Colombian government was able to control it and eliminate the commercial cultivation of the coca leaf on the land with the presence of tapirs. Today the majority of peasants sold their land holdings to indigenous people, there is no war and the old illegal crops are transformed into pastures for cattle mainly. This new reality in the territories of the tapirs in the Sierra Nevada shows the URGENCY of activating a strategy consistent with scientific information and what has been learned about the indigenous and peasant social processes that occur in the place, to stop the hunt, the destruction of the tapir forests, guaranteeing their healthy presence and promoting economic activities in the communities of influence that are compatible with the biodiversity present.

Territory of the tapir in the Sierra Nevada del Caribe


The scientific information published together with the continuous monitoring in the field by the Native Foundation of the last and most threatened population of tapirs in the Sierra Nevada, has made it possible to design the map of the current location of this mammal. The objective: To argue and achieve before the competent authorities the expansion of the Sierra Nevada National Natural Park, since the tapir's territory is not protected and is the last place where tapirs or tapirs can survive in the Massif.

On December 21, 2006, the first photo with an analog camera trap , of the tapir of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Tapirus terrestris colombianus (Hershkovitz 1954).

In 2011, the first video record was obtained, with a digital video camera trap, of the tapir or tapir of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Tapirus terrestris colombianus (Heshkovitz 1954).

On December 21, 2015, the fourth capture of a tapir was made in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta for studies that allow us to know the life area of the largest native mammal of the Sierra Nevada.

Published articles

Moorland tapir Tapirus pinchaque (Roulin 1829)

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