April 27 is World Tapir Day, when tapir lovers across the world unite to raise awareness of these ‘living fossils’ – animals with an ancient lineage; scientists believe that they have changed little over tens of millions of years.
It is testament to their popularity that these fascinating animals, that look like a cross between pigs and elephants, but are actually related to horses and rhinoceroses, have their own special day.
There are four species of tapir; three in the New World (Baird’s Tapir, Mountain Tapir and Brazilian Tapir) and one in the Old World (Malayan Tapir). All species of tapir are threatened to some degree.
In the past hunting was a major problem; the meat is well regarded, the hides have a multitude of uses and other parts of the animal were used as medicines and as so-called aphrodisiacs.
However, this is now better regulated thanks to local regulations, increased awareness of the animal’s rarity and protection. Although hunting does still exist the biggest threat to tapirs is habitat loss.
Regarded as a ‘keystone species’, every day is Tapir Day at World Land Trust (WLT). A keystone species is a plant or animal that plays a unique and crucial role in the way an ecosystem functions.
Without keystone species, the ecosystem would be dramatically different or cease to exist altogether. Many WLT funded reserves are home to tapir where they are an integral part of the diversity of these habitats.
WLT is currently working with Fundación EcoMinga in Ecuador to create a biological corridor which will protect rare species such as Mountain Tapir. When talking about the tapirs inhabiting the ‘Forests in the Sky’ corridor, Lou Jost, Co-Founder of EcoMinga describes them as being ‘the customers of the corridor’.
Our heart-warming video showing a mother and young tapir in the reserve area has been a great favourite over recent weeks.
New World tapirs generally live in the forests and grasslands of Central and South America. A notable exception is the Mountain (or Woolly) Tapir (Tapirus pinchaque), which lives high in the Andes Mountains. Woolly Tapirs, named for their warm and protective coat, are the smallest of all tapirs. Classified as Endangered by IUCN, they are also the most threatened species of tapir.
Several WLT corporate supporters love tapirs too, particularly TapirApps who have donated through their free Android calendar app since 2012 and have funded land purchase in several WLT project sites.
On World Tapir Day 2016 Tapir Apps will be donating 50 per cent of earnings from the sale of the calendar app to tapir conservation, including 10 per cent to WLT’s Yungas Forest project in Argentina.
WLT is currently working with EcoMinga to secure a biological corridor between the national parks of Sangay and Llanganates through the Forests in the Sky Appeal.
You can help protect the habitat for Mountain Tapirs and other rare and threatened flora and fauna in Ecuador by donating to the appeal.