Nicaragua Tapir Project – Indio Maíz

 We work with Fondation Segré to carry out the Indio-Maíz initiative of our Nicaragua Tapir Project, which includes:

  1. The expansion of our tapir GPS telemetry research;
  2. The development and publication of a Nicaraguan Tapir Conservation Action Plan (TCAP);
  3. An applied agricultural research project to develop long-term solutions to the retaliatory killing of tapirs for raiding crops; and,
  4. Capacity-building. The first activity will expand on our previously successful methodologies with a specific focus on the Indio-Maíz Reserve and will give us the spatial ecology data needed to develop and publish a TCAP that includes specific land-use suggestions. The agricultural research will determine what agricultural barriers (i.e. honey bees, chili peppers) prevent tapirs from raiding crops. Products derived from the crops will be marketed in nearby cities. The capacity building component will help train Nicaraguans and TSG members in the strategies and field methods needed to develop and manage successful research and conservation initiatives. Through these activities, we will provide specific tapir management and conservation suggestions for the Nicaraguan authorities after rigorous data collection, develop economic alternatives to tapir hunting for rural peasants, and develop future tapir conservation leaders in Nicaragua and around the world.

Project Location

Project location Indian River, Indio-Maíz Biosphere Reserve, South Caribbean Autonomous Region (RACS), Nicaragua. Indian-River is the heart of the Indio-Maíz Biosphere Reserve and comprised of lowland tropical rainforest and seasonally flooded Raphia sp. palm swamps. Our proposed study area is ca. 1,000 km2, which constitutes a large portion of the ca. 4,500 km2 Biosphere Reserve. Within this proposed study area, we will be working in four specific regions locally known as “the Chair”, Monkey Falls, Encanto, and Canta Gallo (see map). This region is one of the last strongholds for Baird’s tapirs in Nicaragua and a nucleus of one of the three most important strongholds for Baird’s tapirs globally. Conserving this reserve and its tapirs is critical for the long-term conservation of this species.

Figure 1: A map of Nicaragua that includes primary protected areas with Indio-Maíz highlighted in blue-green. The map inset displays the approximate location of our four tapir trapping locations. We will also work with farmers in other areas of this same region on our agricultural experiments.
Threatened Species/Habitat Type Targeted

SPECIES: Baird’s tapir; Tapirus bairdii; IUCN Red List 2008: Endangered A2abcd+3bce; Nicaragua Red List: Endangered; CITES I (2005)

HABITAT: Indio-Maíz Biosphere Reserve – This reserve is comprised of ca. 4,500 km2 of lowland tropical rainforest and swamp forest dominated by Raphia sp. The reserve approaches the central cordillera that runs through Nicaragua and thus harbors a diversity of microhabitats within its boundaries that are hypothesized to be biodiversity hotspots. The reserve is one of the last locations in Nicaragua with a significant number of jaguars (Panthera onca), Harpy eagles (Harpia harpyja), giant anteaters (Myrmecophaga tridactyla), and Baird’s tapirs.

Goals and Objectives

The general goal of our proposed project with Fondation Segré is to ensure the survival of Baird’s tapirs in the Indio-Maíz Biosphere Reserve in the 21st century and contribute to the survival of the species globally. To accomplish this goal, we will need to achieve the following objectives:

Collect enough spatial ecology data (one year of telemetry data for each of our 10 total study animals) from the Indio-Maíz Biosphere to publish a TCAP for the country.

Develop economic alternatives in the form of 1-2 profitable agricultural systems that deter tapirs from raiding crops and thus farmers from killing crop-raiding tapirs.

Publish a TCAP that provides local, regional, and national institutions with concrete, specific recommendations and strategies based in our sound data on Nicaraguan tapirs that will make them capable of ensuring the survival of Baird’s tapirs in Nicaragua.

Develop the conservation leaders of the future by building the capacity of our co-PI, a select group of Caribbean Coast Nicaraguan science students, and other young TSG members from Central America to develop, finance, and implement active conservation projects.

Project Progress

Our work toward achieving our scientific research objectives has been quite successful to date although we have not commenced our Year 2 fieldwork.  In Year 1 we completed two capture expeditions in Indio Maíz, one in April-May, 2016 and another this past August during which we captured four animals.  Due to our main veterinarian’s limited availability, we have scheduled our Year 2 capture expeditions for April 1-May 15.  We have already purchased the necessary new GPS collars and are making the necessary purchases in country to carry out this year’s fieldwork.

On November 24, 2016, our study site was severely affected by Hurricane Otto.  The storm damaged or destroyed an estimated 60% of Indio Maíz’s forests. We have already returned to the field to confirm that all of our study tapirs with GPS collars also survived the hurricane.  Although the damage to the forest is considerable, we have also been given an interesting opportunity to understand the effects of hurricanes on Baird’s tapirs given that we had three animals with collars on during the hurricane and can thus directly compare their home range size, habitat preferences, and movements both before and after the hurricane.

Although three is a small sample size, the nature of the data is very unique.  In addition to this, the hurricane will have to be accounted for in our other analyses of tapir spatial ecology. Again, although this was clearly not our objective when beginning this research, we are viewing this natural disaster as an opportunity, especially given that the effects of hurricanes on wildlife will become an increasingly important topic given that hurricanes are predicted to increase in frequency in the Central American isthmus due to global climate change.

After the hurricane, our team in Nicaragua requested to re-allocate the funds that were disbursed to us to carry out our crop raiding research.  The reason for this is that Hurricane Otto has altered the forested landscape and tapir food availability in our study site, Indio Maíz, too much for us to be able to collect baseline data on tapir crop raiding in Year 2 of our Segre project.  After consulting with Fondation Segré, we have decided to pick up this activity again in Year 3 of the project during which we will carry out phase one and collect baseline data on tapir crop raiding.

We have already completed the first phase of the physical demarcation of the indigenous Rama and Kriol Territory.  This was completed in conjunction with the construction of a new ranger station for the Rama and Kriol indigenous and afro-descendant forest rangers from February 27 through March 14, 2017.  To date, the rangers have helped to physically demarcate approximately 25 kilometers of their indigenous territory’s borders.  We intend to begin with signage construction and installation in April.

We continue to make significant progress toward the development of our Tapir Conservation Action Plan (TCAP).  We made a successful presentation to the Regional Government Session on October 30 and are now about to sign an MOU with the Regional Government that will focus on assisting them with improving their protected area management, developing the TCAP, and developing the Threatened and Endangered Species Commission, among other things.

On February 27, we also held a focus group meeting with our broader TCAP committee that included numerous local leaders and universities to jointly develop proposals for ensuring the conservation of tapirs along Nicaragua’s Caribbean Coast.  This activity was held with local leaders, both local universities, and a representative from the Regional Government and concluded the consultation portion of the TCAP process.

Through this consultation process, we collected information of attitudes about tapirs, the primary drivers behind tapir hunting, and additional socio-economic data that will prove invaluable for developing our TCAP this year and in Year 3 of this project.  After retrieving this year’s collars and running preliminary analyses, our team will develop the first draft of the TCAP for Nicaragua’s Caribbean Coast to review in subsequent committee meetings in Year 2.

Team Nicaragua

Christopher A Jordan, PhD, Coordinator/Principal Investigator
Armando Dans Chavarria, Bsc, Field Assistant
Gerald R. Urquhart, MSc, Link to USA University community and assistant university course developer


Contact: Christopher A. Jordan, PhD // Email address: // Organisation name: Global Wildlife Conservation & IUCN/SSC Tapir Specialist Group (TSG) // Organisation full mailing address: PO Box 129, Austin, TX 78767, United States // Telephone: +1-512-593-1883 // Website:;