Tapirus bairdii 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Perissodactyla Tapiridae

Scientific Name: Tapirus bairdii (Gill, 1865)
Common Name(s):
English Baird's Tapir, Central American Tapir
French Tapir de Baird
Spanish Anteburro, Danta, Dante, Danto, Macho de Monte, Tapir Centroamericano

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Endangered A2abcd+3bcde ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2014-11-17
Assessor(s): Garcìa, M., Jordan, C., O'Farril, G., Poot, C., Meyer, N., Estrada, N., Leonardo, R., Naranjo, E., Simons, Á., Herrera, A., Urgilés, C., Schank, C., Boshoff, L. & Ruiz-Galeano, M.
Reviewer(s): Desbiez, A.
Contributor(s): Castellanos, A., Cruz-Aldán, E., Foerster, C.R., González-Maya, J.F., Lira Torres , I., Lizcano, D.J., Matola, S., Samudio Jr, R. & Schipper, J.

Tapirus bairdii continues to be listed as Endangered. Population declines are estimated to be greater than 50% in the past three generation (33 years) mainly due to habitat loss and hunting.  It is estimated that around 70% of Central American forest areas have been lost through deforestation and alteration over the last 40 years (Primack et al. 1997), in addition the species has been consistently hunted throughout most its range. We therefore estimate that the population has declined by well over 50% in the past three generations. Causes of past population reduction have not ceased. It is suspected that in next three generations the population will decline by a further 70% from loss of habitat, fragmentation and hunting pressure. Range-wide habitat change is severely impacting and fragmenting populations of T. bairdii, which do not generally occupy human dominated or modified habitat types and suffers from persecution near human settlements. In addition there is evidence to suggest that infectious diseases may contribute to the decline of the species in the future as cases are now being found in the northern portion of the range where cattle are present. Outbreaks of disease have been reported in Guatemala and Costa Rica. The construction of a road through the Maya Biosphere Reserve in Guatemala and in other regions is likely to become a major problem for tapirs in that area. The construction of mega infrastructure (highways, dams, interoceanic canal) in different countries threatens the species, and may create additional genetic barriers. Finally severe droughts potentially as a result of climate change may have a future impact on tapir populations on the Selva Maya.

Main threats in the northern region include habitat loss due to expanding agriculture, livestock, and mega-infrastructure; climate change; road kills; and hunting. Main threats in the central region include habitat loss due to expanding agriculture, livestock, and mega-infrastructure (Petracca et al. 2014); other land use change; and hunting (Jordan et al. 2014). Main threats in the southern region include habitat loss due to expanding agriculture, livestock, and mega-infrastructure; hunting; and fires (Cove et al. 2013). The current overall population estimate for mature individuals of this species is suspected to be close to 3,000. If trends persist and conservation action not taken  T. bairdii may become Critically Endangered in the near future with declines of over 80% of the total population being suspected. 

Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:

The Baird's Tapir (Tapirus bairdii) is known to occur in Southern Mexico, Belize, Costa Rica, Guatemala, southern Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua, Republic of Panama, north-western Colombia (Chocò and Darien regions)(Restrepo and Betancourt 2008), and historically in El Salvador. Its current or historical presence is still uncertain in Ecuador. In Mexico, the Baird's Tapir is present in the following localities: Campeche, Chiapas, Oaxaca, Quintana Roo and potentially in Veracruz, Yucatan and Tabasco. In Belize T. bairdii is present in all districts while in Guatemala is present in the Department of Izabal, Petén, Alta Verapaz and Quiché, and in the Biosphere Reserve of Sienna de las Minas. In Honduras is present in several localities in the Department of Atlàntida, Cortés, El Paraiso, Gracias a Dios, Olancho and Yoro. In Nicaragua the Baird's Tapir is limited primarily to Caribbean Coast lowland tropical fortest, swamps, and seasonally flooded forests, the San Juan River, and the Bosawàs Biosphere Reserve. In Costa Rica is present in the three mountain ranges and main protected areas in lowlands (Castellanos et al. 2008). The Baird's Tapir is recorded in Republic of Panama in the provinces of Chiriqui, Bocas del Toro, Veraguas, Coclé, Colon, Panama, Guna Yala and Darién, and to sum up to the forests along the Atlantic coast.

Forest cover and preliminary habitat distribution models suggest that there exist three core areas for Baird’s Tapirs that are geographically separated.  Given the high levels of habitat destruction throughout the Baird’s Tapir’s range, we believe it is crucial to highlight these three core areas as the top conservation priorities for ensuring the survival of Baird’s Tapirs.

Regions: North (Mexico, Guatemala and Belize), Central (Honduras and Nicaragua), and South (Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panamá and Colombia).

Countries occurrence:
Belize; Colombia; Costa Rica; Guatemala; Honduras; Mexico; Nicaragua; Panama
Regionally extinct:
El Salvador
Additional data:
Upper elevation limit (metres):3600
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]


There are recent reports of Baird's Tapir population in the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua (Jordan et al. 2010) and Panama (Meyer et al. 2013) where population's status were unconfirmed or thought to be extinct. Despite these new records, populations of this species are expected to be in a continuing decline due to the existing threats in the region. Also, a new report reveals the extreme rarity of the species in central Panama where it was thought to be resident (N. Meyer pers. comm.).

Although some recent estimates suggest there may be a higher number of individual in certain countries, we believe the total population estimate from prior assessments is significantly overestimated.

The Mosquitia area of Honduras and Nicaragua is particularly important because of its large size and low human population density, though tapir density may be low due to the presence of hunters throughout the region. This region may contain 500-600 mature individual.

Although it was suggested that the species still persisted in El Salvador at some level (Sanchez-Nuñez et al. 2007), there haven't been recent publications with new records. The forest of Indio-Maiz, Costa Rica, and Panama may contain a population of approximately 600-800 mature individuals. The remaining mature individuals are primarily in small, isolated forest remnants that are unlikely to be connected to these core areas. In the Maya Forest of Mexico, Belize and Guatemala may contain viable population, previously estimated of about 1,000-1,500 individuals. 

Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:

The Baird’s Tapir is found in forested areas with ponds and streams (wet tropical rainforest, tropical subdeciduous forest and montane cloud forests), palm swamps, paramo, mangrove, riparian forest, and successional vegetation (caused by natural disturbances), as well as in narrow oak- forest strips covering the top of medium-altitude mountains; from sea level to 3,620 m (Brooks et al. 1997, Naranjo and Vaughan 2000).

Systems:Terrestrial; Freshwater
Generation Length (years):11

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: This species is hunted locally for food and to be trade as pets. It is also hunted for sport in Costa Rica.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s):

The main factors of Baird’s population decline remain habitat destruction and localized hunting (Castellanos et al. 2008, Brooks et al. 1997).  The species low reproductive rate makes it more vulnerable to these threats (Brooks et al. 1997).

Between 2001 and 2010, Mexico and Central America experienced a net loss of 179,405 km2 of forested habitats, correlated with the gain of mixed woody/plantation and agriculture/herbaceous vegetation; the Maya Forest in Mexico, Belize and Guatemala, and the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua had the greatest deforestation rates during this period (Aide et al. 2012).  Deforestation not only reduces forest extensions but also changes their spatial patterns, resulting in fragmented habitat and genetically isolated tapir populations.  The Nicaragua population is highly threatened by continued high rates of deforestation in its Biosphere Reserves and other protected areas (C. Jordan pers. comm.).

In the last years, the increasing of Palm oil plantations through the species distribution is becoming an relevant threat in the region.

Hunting has been reported to have a notable effect in some tapir populations, significantly increasing their chance of becoming extinct in the short term where pressure is high (Castellanos et al. 2008, García et al. 2010, McCann et al. 2011). Where hunting pressure is low it might not drive populations to extinction (Dunn et al. 2011). In recent years, hunting has been reported in Guatemala (García et al. 2010), Honduras (Dunn et al. 2011, McCann et al. 2012) and Nicaragua (Koster 2007, Jordan et al. 2014); and previously in Costa Rica (Castellanos et al. 2008). Sport hunting has been previously reported in Costa Rica (Castellanos et al. 2008).

Other threats include disease transmission to wild tapirs coexisting with domestic animals (Cruz et al. 2006); road kill in Yucatán, Mexico (Contreras-Moreno et al. 2013); fire events were documented in Mexico; young tapirs captured to be trade as pets; and a new threat reported in Mexico, disoriented tapirs with abnormal behavior (might be due to diseases) killed or captured in human settlements (G. O’Farrill pers. comm.).

There is particular concern that climate change will increase the severity of droughts in Mexico’s Calakmul Reserve and result in a steep decline of tapirs in the Northern Region that could affect the conservation of Baird’s Tapirs throughout their range (O’Farrill et al. 2014).

In Belize, continual fragmentation of the Selva Maya are threatening Baird’s tapir populations in northern Central America. This is particularly the case in the area where the Chalillo Dam is being built and tapirs are being illegally hunted to feed construction workers (S. Matola pers. comm.). In Panama, major threats seem to be hunting and habitat loss.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions:

This species occurs in several protected areas throughout its range including some large Biosphere reserves, national parks, wildlife refuges, comarcas (indigenous territories in Panama which make up a large part of tapir’s habitat), and other small to medium sized reserves. There are also important suitable habitat patches with no protected status in Mexico (Mendoza et al. 2012), Belize (Waters and Ulloa 2007), Guatemala and Nicaragua, and possibly in the other countries.

Regionally considered under CITES Appendix I. Protected nationally throughout its range, however, these laws are often not enforced in many areas (Brooks et al. 1997).

Mexico has developed the Baird’s Tapirs “Programa de Acción de Conservación de Especie” (Specie’s conservation action plan), with objectives related to the conservation of habitats and populations, as well as research and conservation goals.

Honduras developed the “Plan Nacional para la conservación del danto (Tapirus bairdii) en Honduras” (National Plan for Baird’s Tapir conservation in Honduras) which includes 4 action lines: habitat and wild populations conservation, ex situ conservation, environmental education, and governance and citizen participation.

Parts of the Baird’s Tapir’s range is uncertain. The “Estrategia Nacional para la Conservación de los Tapires en el Ecuador” (Tapir’s Conservation National strategy from Ecuador), for instance, lists determining if Baird’s Tapirs occur in the country as a priority. 

Citation: Garcìa, M., Jordan, C., O'Farril, G., Poot, C., Meyer, N., Estrada, N., Leonardo, R., Naranjo, E., Simons, Á., Herrera, A., Urgilés, C., Schank, C., Boshoff, L. & Ruiz-Galeano, M. 2016. Tapirus bairdii. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T21471A45173340. . Downloaded on 25 September 2018.
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