BAIRDS GUATEMALA working team in Dos Lagunas Biotopo

TSG & Fondation Segré World Tapir Conservation Program

Given the high rates of forest destruction and fragmentation of the Neotropical habitats where tapirs are found, this rate of population decline is predicted to continue, and in some cases increase, over the next three generations. Due to their individualistic lifestyle, low reproduction rate and low population density, tapirs are rarely abundant, which makes them highly susceptible to threats. Tapir populations do not easily recover after a severe reduction. Thus, tapir populations are particularly susceptible to habitat loss and fragmentation (resulting in small populations and low habitat connectivity). Furthermore, while habitat fragmentation leads to small populations, other threats, such as hunting, road-kill, fire, and disease are even greater threats to the remaining tapir populations. Numerous tapir populations are found outside the boundaries of protected areas, where these animals are heavily and unsustainably hunted, negatively impacted by competition with cattle, and susceptible to road-kill, disease, and many other threats. Tapir species are legally protected in most countries. However, existing laws are rarely enforced and therefore have, in most cases, proven ineffective.

Who are we?

The IUCN/SSC Tapir Specialist Group is a global network of in-situ and ex-situ conservationists dedicated to conserving tapirs and their habitat through strategic action-planning.  This proposal includes five conservation programs covering the four tapir species in Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Indonesia, and Nicaragua. (Through this international initiative in partnership with Fondation Segré we aim to:

  1. Use our collective experience to collaborate on guiding the development of our five programs to both ensure each project’s individual goals are achieved and help the principal investigators bring their projects to a certain level of stability;
  2. Develop a collaborative model for tapir conservationists and other IUCN Specialist Groups globally;
  3. Make all data and results open access to ensure other researchers and conservationists have access to our methods and collaborative model; and,
  4. Publish widely in the popular press and on social media to raise the profile of tapir conservation globally.)  The world is facing many conservation crises and confronting them will require international teams of researchers and conservationists to jointly design and implement creative, context specific research projects and conservation solutions

Why protect the Tapirs?

Tapirs are uniquely suited to be the focal species for conservation initiatives. Tapirs are widely recognized as umbrella species (species with large area requirements, which if given sufficient protected habitat, will bring many other species under protection) ,

Tapirs are landscape species (species that occupy large home ranges, which require a diversity of ecosystems and have a significant impact on the structure, productivity and resilience of ecosystems

Tapirs are recognized as gardeners of the forest. Through seed dispersal and selective browsing of hundreds of plants that comprise their diet, tapirs play a critical role in shaping the structure and maintaining the composition and functions of the ecosystems in which they occur.

Tapir population declines and local extinctions can have disproportionate negative impacts on biodiversity.


The four living tapir species occur in the tropics of Central America (Baird’s tapir), South America (lowland tapir, mountain tapir, and a small Baird’s tapir population in northern Colombia), and Southeast Asia (Malayan tapir). They are all threatened with extinction. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species lists Baird’s, Mountain, and Malayan tapirs as ENDANGERED and the lowland tapir as VULNERABLE to extinction. Populations of all four species have experienced reductions greater than 30% over the past three generations (ca. 33 years).

Tapir species and their conservation status and distribution

LOWLAND TAPIR, Tapirus terrestris; (Project: Brazil,Distribution: South America) Vulnerable A2cde+3cde (IUCN Red List 2008); CITES II (2005)

BAIRD’S TAPIR, Tapirus bairdii; Project :(Nicaragua and Guatemala, Distribution: Central America) Endangered A2abcd+3bce (IUCN Red List 2008); CITES I (2005)

MOUNTAIN TAPIR, Tapirus pinchaque; (Project: Colombia, Distribution: South America) Endangered A2cd+3cd, C1 (IUCN Red List 2008); CITES I (2005)

MALAYAN TAPIR, Tapirus indicus; (Project: Indonesia,Distribtion: Southeast Asia) Endangered A2cd (IUCN Red List 2008); CITES I (2005)


Patrícia Medici, PhD, Chair // Email address: epmedici@uol.com.br // Organisation name: IUCN/SSC Tapir Specialist Group (TSG) Organisation // Rua Licuala, 622, Damha 1, CEP: 79046-150, Campo Grande, MS, BRAZIL Telephone: +55-67-3344-0240; +55-67-9965-6960 // Website: http://www.tapirs.org; http://www.facebook.com/pages/Tapir-Specialist-Group/92574779179