Tapirus bairdii 


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Perissodactyla Tapiridae

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

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Endangered A2abcd+3bce ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Castellanos, A., Foerester, C., Lizcano, D.J., Naranjo, E., Cruz-Aldan, E., Lira-Torres, I., Samudio, R., Matola, S., Schipper, J. & Gonzalez-Maya. J.
Reviewer(s): Shoemaker, A. & Medici, P. (Tapir Specialist Red List Authority)
This species is listed as Endangered due to an ongoing and inferred future decline estimated from loss of habitat, fragmentation and hunting pressure. Population declines are estimated to be greater than 50% in the past 3 generation (33 years) and suspected to be greater than 50% decline in the next 3 generations (33 years). 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. The current overall population estimate for this species is < 5,000 mature individuals. 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. 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) – thus we infer that at least 50% of the habitat has been lost on the past 3 generations. 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. There do appear to be several strongholds for populations (i.e. La Amistad), however, increasing threats from hunting and the lack on enforcement in these areas will cause continuing declines and risk severe fragmentation of remaining mature individuals.
Previously published Red List assessments:
2002 Endangered (EN)
1996 Vulnerable (VU)
1994 Vulnerable (V)
1990 Vulnerable (V)
1988 Vulnerable (V)
1986 Vulnerable (V)
1982 Vulnerable (V)
1965 Very rare and believed to be decreasing in numbers

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Tapirus bairdii is known to occur in Belize, Costa Rica, Guatemala, southern Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua, Republic of Panama, north-western Colombia, and historically in El Salvador. In southern Mexico (Oaxaca), tapirs are present in the following localities: Santa Maria Chimalapas (Los Chimalapas), the zone of the isthmus, Cordillera de Veinte Cerros and adjacent zone of the northern range of Oaxaca (Iván Lira-Torres pers. comm.). In Costa Rica is present in the three mountain ranges and main protected areas in lowlands, with substantially higher densities at higher elevations (J. Gonzalez-Maya pers. comm.). Recent range extensions of 377 km bring the Baird’s tapir to a new northern limit; Tuza de Monroy, near the municipality of Santiago Jamiltepec in Oaxaca State, Mexico.
Countries occurrence:
Belize; Colombia; Costa Rica; Guatemala; Honduras; Mexico; Nicaragua; Panama
Regionally extinct:
El Salvador
Upper elevation limit (metres): 3600
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Populations of Baird's tapir are in a continuing decline. Recent (2006) means of evaluating habitat and population estimates by Naranjo, Cruz-Aldán and Lira-Torres (pers. comm.) suggest that there are only <5,500 individual Baird’s tapir remaining in the wild, with populations in Mexico (>1,500), Guatemala (>1,000), Honduras (>500), Nicaragua (>500), Republic of Panama (>1,000), Costa Rica (>1000, Vaughan 1990) and Colombia (250).

The Mosquitia area of Honduras and Nicaragua is particularly important because of its large size and low human population density. There are recent sightings and reports from El Salvador (Sanchez-Nuñez et al. 2007) suggesting it still persists there at some level. Based on 2004 aerial surveys of available habitat in Honduras, the population is estimated to be 1,859 individuals. The relatively small Corcovado National Park in Costa Rica is thought to hold at least 300 tapirs (C. Foerster, unpublished data). Recent surveys in the Cordillera Talamanca found tapirs to be locally among the most abundant large vertebrate above 2,000 m elevation, where large populations still remain in areas where they are not hunted (J. Schipper and J. Gonzalez-Maya pers. comm.).

Recently, several individuals of this species have been observed along the Atlantic coast in the northern region of Colombia known as Chocó in the Tripogadi Serrania, outside Los Katios National Park. Reports of Baird’s tapir presence near Jurado and the upper Salaque confirm its presence in northwestern Colombia’s Darien region (D. J. Lizcano pers. comm.). If each adult tapir requires at least 500 hectares, a rough estimate is 450 animals although hunting, warfare and habitat destruction and fragmentation could impact this estimate.

In the Republic of Panama, reports received since 2000 suggest that Baird’s tapirs are distributed continuously along the forests of the Caribbean slope. Their range extends from Bocas del Toro in western Panama throughout the Panama Canal watershed to the Kuna Yala Comarca (R. Samudio pers. comm.). These reports also confirm the presence along the Cordillera Central in western Panama, including prime habitat above 3,000 m, as well as in the Darien region near the Colombian border. The qualitative estimations are based on sightings and tracks considered to be from tapirs, suggesting that the species is common in the Panamanian portio of the La Amistad International Peace Park as well as the Darien and Chagres National Parks and the Rio Caimito private reserve. Gonzalez Maya (2008) reports a high density (3.03 individuals/km²) around the 2,600 meters and a comparative much higher relative abundance in mid elevations (2000-3000) on a 800-3500 meters elevation gradient in the Costa Rican portion of La Amistad - Cordillera Talamanca.
Current Population Trend: Decreasing
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented: No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: T. bairdii is generally found in humid habitats, from sea level to 3,600 m. The species is strongly associated with water and is found in marsh and swamp areas, mangroves, wet tropical rainforest, riparian woodland, monsoon deciduous forest, dry deciduous forest, montane cloud forest and paramo (Matola et al. 1997, Gonzalez-Maya pers. comm.).
Systems: Terrestrial; Freshwater

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: This species is hunted locally for food. It is also hunted for sport in Costa Rica.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Baird's tapir is threatened primarily by habitat destruction, and localized hunting. Tapirs have a low reproductive rate, after a 13 month gestation period, the single offspring will usually spend up to two years with its mother. This low recruitment rate, coupled with hunting threats and habitat loss, is a serious factor contributing to population decline (Matola et al. 1997).

In Costa Rica, sport hunting is a threat for tapir in the Cordillera Talamanca, including within La Amistad Bionational Park (J. Schipper pers. comm.). In a recent survey of tapir in the Cordillera Talamanca, Gonzalez-Maya (pers. comm.) reports high hunting pressure of tapirs in mountain ecosystems around 2500 meters, with hunting clubs, and hunting dedicated only to this species, where it was reported as one of the most common hunted species in certain protected areas (La Amistad International Park). The effect of hunting is notable as it is common where not hunted in the Talamancas and nearly absent where hunting pressure is high – suggesting density estimated based strictly on remaining habitat are misleading where hunting occurs (J. Schipper pers. comm.).

Lira-Torres and Naranjo (pers. comm.) have detected a number of infectious diseases and parasites in Baird’s tapirs of southern Mexico that originated from cattle and horses. In addition, several dead adult tapirs have been found in Chimalpas near livestock raising zones that are thought to have died from infectious diseases.

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 a number of protected areas throughout its range. Six large Biosphere Reserves in Campeche, Chiapas and Quintana Roo were thought to hold numerous tapirs. In Guatemala, the Maya Biosphere Reserve could hold several hundred more, as should each of the other small parks in Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Republic of Panama. Protected nationally throughout its range, however, these laws are often not enforced in many areas (Matola et al. 1997). In Costa Rica tapirs are present in numerous protected areas, are protected under the wildlife conservation law No. 7317 from 1992, and its considered under CITES Appendix I (Gonzalez-Maya pers. comm.). Further research is needed to determine the rates of decline in the species due to hunting and effects of increasingly fragmented populations on the species.

Citation: Castellanos, A., Foerester, C., Lizcano, D.J., Naranjo, E., Cruz-Aldan, E., Lira-Torres, I., Samudio, R., Matola, S., Schipper, J. & Gonzalez-Maya. J. 2008. Tapirus bairdii. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T21471A9284327. . Downloaded on 25 June 2016.
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