The Lowland Tapir Conservation Initiative (LTCI) was first established in 1996 in the Atlantic Forest. This conservation program included research on basic tapir ecology, demographics, genetics, education and habitat restoration. In 2008 the (LTCI) expanded their research to Brazil’s Pantanal, the world’s largest tropical wetlands. This program would assess tapir status in the region, and once again design a specific set of conservation strategies that will not only benefit tapirs but other wildlife as well. Most people know of the Amazon, however the Pantanal , located mostly in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul, is approximately 10 times the size of the Florida Everglades and also extends from central-western Brazil, into eastern Bolivia and eastern Paraguay. It has the largest concentration of wildlife in South America!
The goals for this expedition were to capture, sample and radio collar as many tapirs as possible; re-establish locations for camera traps throughout the areas of the monitored tapirs; radio track tapirs previously equipped with collars (15 currently being radio tracked) and start the expansion of the tapir genetics study.
Throughout the 14 day trip seven tapirs were caught. Six of these were tapirs that had been caught previously, and one was a new tapir. I feel very honoured that this one was named after me – Justine Taronga! Some of the tapirs seem to like the traps so much they keep coming back!! One in particular, Rita, has been returned 11 times since her first capture in 2010! These tapirs are released immediately as they have already been anesthetised and tested. In addition to these tapirs, we were able to add valuable new samples to the genetics study and camera trap studies. This data combines to tell the project leader Dr Pati Medici about the social interactions, population viability and potential threats. Many other species are caught on the camera traps such as peccaries, pumas, coatis, deer, capybara, giant anteater, crab eating fox and lesser anteaters
The two weeks went very fast and it was such an amazing trip and was an absolute privilege working with Pati and her team! Pati is such a professional, a true conservationist and Taronga Conservation Society Australia is very proud to be involved with such a devoted conservationist not only for tapir conservation but conservation of all animals and their habitats.
By Justine Powell, Ungulate Keeper.