Course:CONS200/2020/An Assessment of Baird’s Tapir Conservation in Mexico

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Milton, a 16-year-old male Baird's Tapir at the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston, Massachusetts.

Basic Information of Baird's Tapir

American naturalist Spencer Fullerton Baird is the individual who found Baird’s tapir that is named after him. When it comes to documentation, W. T. White is the person that first documented Baird’s tapir[1]. It is considered the largest land mammal in Central American and lives in the mountain. It is important to note that Baird's tapir has a unique marking on its face, throat that is cream in colour. The cheeks have a dark spot. The rest of the hair of Baird's tapir is dark brown. The average length of Baird's tapir is between 1.8 m and 2.5 m, which makes it the largest of the four American species. Additionally, the body mass of an adult Baird's tapir is ranging from 1500 – 400 kilograms, therefore, the mammal is enormous. It is known to forage fallen fruits and leaves. In addition, often it lives in near proximity to water and enjoys swimming. During the hot days, the tapir rests in the water for hours with the head above the water.

The Reasons For Conserved

Sadly, Baird's tapir is in danger of extinction and was classified as vulnerable in 1966. The factors that contribute to its extinction include habitat loss and poaching. The only known predator of Baird's tapir is the jaguar and American crocodile [2]. In this light, Baird's tapir must be conserved because it plays a crucial role in the environment. It disperses seeds of more than 200 species that it eats.

Factors Lead to Danger

Biological Causes (Biotic)

Baird's tapir faces challenges because of its gestation period. The gestation period for Baird's tapir is estimated to be 400 days. Besides, Baird's tapir only gives birth to a single offspring, and it is rare for it to have multiple births. If the offspring were to die, then it would retake more than 400 days for it to give birth. Therefore, if Baird's tapir were hunted in large numbers, their gestation period as well as having a single offspring would not address the reduced numbers. The Baird's tapir offspring has a reddish-brown hair that has a white spot and stripe, which makes it camouflage with ease[3]. Moreover, the offspring often is in danger in the forest, and therefore its colour makes it difficult for predators to spot it. However, as it continues to grow, the pattern fades.

Man-made Causes (Abiotic)

As the local population grows, humans compete with Baird's Tapir for natural resources. Some forests have been cut down and turned into farmland or crops that bring economic significance. Deforestation leads to a reduction in food supply is also an indirect cause of its endangerment. A part of the forests is used as a human dwelling and to build houses. Also, Baird's Tapir is a kind of food for people in the local community[4]. The large food supply and its low reproductive ability cause endangerment. Now the phenomenon of hunting has improved because of the sudden decrease in the number of Baird's Tapir, and because of its large size, it is not easy to take away.

Conservation Plans

Conservation Plans Against Deforestation

Mesoamerican Biological Corridor

[5] Location of tapir in Mexico

The Mesoamerican Biological Corridor (MBC) is a concept of sustainable development for Mesoamerica that unites goals of conservation with sustainable development initiatives of local peoples throughout the region. The MBC is an initiative of Central America and Mexico. It encompasses many projects which are both nationally and internationally funded, and supported by a great variety of organizations. All the protected areas of Central America are part of the MBC[6].

Mexico's portion of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor (MBC-M) is located in one of the main strongholds for Baird's tapir. The trans-boundary Mesoamerican Biological Corridor (MBC), running from southern Mexico to Panama, is one of the most ambitious conservation initiatives in the world. The central goal of MBC is reducing the impacts of deforestation and fragmentation on the region's biodiversity by preserving habitat availability and connectivity for wild populations[7].

Payments for Ecosystem Services

Payments for ecosystem services is an effective conservation strategy to decrease the deforestation and protect the habitats for Baird’s tapir. The PES in Mexico is mainly funded by governments, National Forestry Commission (CONAFOR), to compensate local communities for conserving the natural forests with the objectives of biodiversity conservation and hydrological protection[8].

From 2003 to 2011, CONAFOR has funded 489 million dollars for the project, allocating it into the conservation of the land of 3.2 million hectares, benefiting over 5,967 ejidos, communities and smallholders in the country[9]. Since the program's inception, geographic analysis and monitoring of forest resources were a basis for the fulfillment of the program´s objectives. The geographic analysis and monitoring of forest resources are the basis to realize the project’s objectives since the it started. The government monitored the natural resources, vegetation covers and land use and conducted demographic and social investigations, making sure that the PES project was undergoing well[10].

Conservation Plans Against Poaching

The Baird's tapir is a heavily harvested tropical game animal throughout its geographic range. Its large size makes it highly appreciated for its meat, and it also plays an important role in the legends and cosmology of many indigenous groups. A relatively slow reproductive cycle, low population densities and a large home range, however, combine to make the species very vulnerable to habitat destruction and overhunting. Thus, how to put forward the policy against poaching to protect the tapir is important.

Main factor may account for higher tapir abundance at hunted sites is, tapirs are not a favored prey by hunters in Calakmul compared with other common places in Mexico[11]. In other word, the best way to against poaching is let people buying tapir know tapir is useless for human or let indigenous hunters play positive role in tapir conservation throughout its distribution range.

Actions of the Tapir Specialist Group

The Tapir Specialist Group, a unit of the IUCN Species Survival Commission, is a scientific organization that aims to conserve, restore and manage tapirs and their habitats in Central and South America and Southeast Asia[12]. They proposed clear objectives and methods to reduce the hunting of baird’s tapir in their assessment report in 2005.

TSG aimed to reduce illegal hunting by 20% in the next five years in the areas where Baird’s tapir lives in[13]. In order to achieve it, their first step was to promote the existing legislation enforced by the responsible governmental departments within two years[13]. They conducted many workshops, interviews and other forms of communications for the relevant officers and personnel to raise their awareness and improve their capacity and equip[13]. In addition, they planed to make the local communities participate in fighting against Baird’s tapir illegal hunting by environmental education programs[13]. They founded a volunteering program of park patrols and conducted educational workshops with communities to stimulate them to conserve Baird’s tapir[13].

Assessments of Conservation Plans

Assessment of Mesoamerican Biological Corridor

MBC-M includes an important portion of the potential tapir habitat in southern Mexico and generally it plays a significant role in the conservation of tapir habitatthe. However, MBC-M still faces some several challenges which need to be addressed. Firstly, the associated protected areas which maintain a high proportion of their area are covered by forests. The modelled corridors were greatly dependent on forest occurring in Guatemala and Belize to connect the modelled conservation areas. However, in southern Mexico, there are intensive deforestation and fragmentation. Additionally, the areas of MBC-M is limited and there are large areas of apparent suitable tapir habitat fall beyond the MBC-M. It is necessary to extend the area of the MBC-M and protect more tapirs. [7].

It is necessary to come up with management plans that reinforce and complement this conservation initiative. Further, additional strategies should be implemented urgently to stop habitat loss and fragmentation in southern Mexico to avoid the complete loss of connection among protected areas, especially in Montes Azules-El Triunfo Corridor. In parallel, actions directed to restore ecosystems should prioritize re-establishing connectivity among the largest tracts of natural habitats[7].

Assessment of Payments for Ecosystem Services

In general, the average reduction deforestation rate in the areas that are under the PES project compared to those without it, was statistically significant, though small (Alix-Garcia, et al, 2010). Beside, the program seems to have a more effective effect in the southern states and northeastern Mexico where poverty levels are lower, to realize the reduction of deforestation[14].

A case study which studied the effectivity of PES in Marqués de Comillas and Benemérito de las Américas, also shows a positive impact of PES project. the two areas are located within a biological corridor established in 2007 in order to build connection between many Biosphere reserves in the southern of Mexico[8]. according to the study, it can be found that non-treated forests in treated ejidos have a higher deforestation risk than treated forests. Also, the major deforestation (55.64%) occurs in non-treated ejidos, which have lost 37.82% of forest cover during the period of 2007 and 2013[8]. In conclusion, the PES project for biodiversity conservation has effectively stopped deforestation in the areas with high deforestation risk [8].

Future Prospects for Conservation Plans

Conservation Plans of Establishing Protected Areas

The National Strategy for the Cnservation of Genus Tapirus in Ecuador highlights, as part of its action plan, shows the need to delimit the complete distribution area and ecosystem availabiity for T. pinchaque in the Ecuadorian Andes, for a better evaluation of its main threats and the establishment of priority conservation units. [15]The protected areas are from part the most common strategies in reducing global biodiversity loss and are central to the aims of almost all conservation policies. [16]All the PAs tends to reduce the total suitable range area for this species, considering future scnarios of climate change, especially towards the Sangay National Park. The persistence of PAs in Ecuador will play an important role in preventing environmental degradation in the central and northern portion of the mountain tapir distribution, where populations along the southern Ecuador are more vulnerable due to less PAs. An integrative approach should be used to define conservation priorities units and to design ecological corridors along the mountain tapir's distributional range.[17]In view of the high similarity of topography, climate and temperature between Mexico and Ecuador, similar biodiversity and little difference in ecological environment, the establishment of protected areas in Mexico is a very effective conservation plan, which also opens up a new direction for future research.


  1. "Baird's tapir". 
  2. Coulson JO, Rondeau E, Caravaca M. (2018 Mar). "Yellow-headed Caracara and Black Vulture cleaning Baird's tapir". Journal of Raptor Research.: 52(1):104–7.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  3. "The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016". 
  4. Eduardo J., Naranjo (June 1, 2009). "Ecology and Conservation of Baird's Tapir in Mexico". SAGE journals. 
  5. MENDOZA, FULLER,THOMASSEN, ,RAMÍREZ-MEJÍA and SMITH, Eduardo,Trevon L., Henri A., Wolfgang,Diana,BUERMANN and. "A preliminary assessment of the effectiveness of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor for protecting potential Baird's tapir (Tapirus bairdii ) habitat in southern Mexico". Integrative zoology. 8: 35–47. 
  6. Douglas, Graham. "Mesoamerican Biological Corridor". Global transboundary conservation network. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 MENDOZA, FULLER, THOMASSEN,BUERMANN, RAMÍREZ-MEJÍA and, Eduardo, Trevon L. , Henri A. ,Wolfgang , Diana and Thomas B. "A preliminary assessment of the effectiveness of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor for protecting potential Baird's tapir (Tapirus bairdii ) habitat in southern Mexico". Integrative zooligy. 8: 35–47. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Costedoat, Corbera, Ezzine-de-Blas, Honey-Rosés, Baylis; et al. (2015). "How Effective Are Biodiversity Conservation Payments in Mexico?". PLOS ONE. 10(3): e0119881. 
  9. CONAFOR (2011). "Servicios Ambientales y Cambio Climático" (PDF). 
  10. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. (2013). "Case studies on Remuneration of Positive Externalities (RPE)/ Payments for Environmental Services (PES)" (PDF). 
  11. Reyna-Hurtado, R., & Tanner, G. W. (2007). "Ungulate relative abundance in hunted and non-hunted sites in calakmul forest (southern mexico)". Biodiversity and Conservation, 16(3), 743-756. 
  12. "About the Tapir Specialist Group". Tapir Specialist Group. 
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 Tapir Specialist Group, Conservation Breeding Specialist Group (2005). "Baird's Tapir (Tapirus bairdii) Conservation Workshop Population and Habitat Viability Assessment (PHVA)" (PDF). 
  14. Alix-García, Shapiro, Sims. (2012). "Forest Conservation and Slippage: Evidence from Mexico's National Payments for Ecosystem Services Program". Land Economics. 88 (4): 613–638. 
  15. Tapia A, NogalesF, OrdóñezL, editors (2011). "Estrategia Nacional para la Conservación de los Tapires (Tapirus spp.) en el Ecuador. Quito, Ecuador". Grupo de Especialistas de Tapires de la UICN.: 88p.  line feed character in |title= at position 87 (help)
  16. LessmannJ,MuñozJ,BonaccorsoE (2014). "Maximizing species conservation in continental Ecuador: a case of systematic conservation planning for biodiverse regions". Ecology and Evolution 2014:1–13. 
  17. Ortega-Andrade, H. M., Prieto-Torres, D. A., Gómez-Lora, I., & Lizcano, D. J. (2015). "Ecological and geographical analysis of the distribution of the mountain tapir (tapirus pinchaque) in ecuador: Importance of protected areas in future scenarios of global warming". PloS One, 10(3): 10(3), e0121137. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0121137. 

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