Paramos are high Andean mountain ecosystems located in Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador. Cities like Bogotá, capital of Colombia, depend mainly on water from these ecosystems to supply with water to more than 8 million people. I took this picture while studying mountain tapirs in Puracé, National Park, south western Colombia, some years ago. I liked the beautiful colors of the vegetation and, of course, the transparency of the water while flowing over a milky bed of sulfur from a nearby volcano. I wanted to share it as my first post for Watery Wednesday.
I loved to meet in person a group of suricates or slender-tailed meerkats (Suricatta suricatta) at the Cali Zoo a few days ago. I liked to see their fast movements and how they stare and then run fast with exact movements. This carnivore species is native from Africa (Angola, Namibia, Botswana and South Africa) where it lives in dry areas. They live in colonies in borrows excavated by themselves or shared with other species. Suricates seems to enjoy the sun! An that’s what I saw at Cali Zoo.
When walking in mountain tapir habitat you feel like walking in a perfect garden full of colors textures and smells. Look at this picture taken at Purace National Park. At right you can see some “frailejón” (Espeletia sp.) plants, a group of species specially adapted to the cold Andean paramos of Venezuela, Colombia and some areas in Ecuador. Their leaves have a hairy texture that help the plant to protect itself from UV radiation and from the harsh cold. The plant retains the dead leaves in its trunk, an adaptation related with how the plant deals with the cold temperatures too. Frailejons growth very slowly, about just 1 cm per year. Some other species that we can see in this picture are the bromeliads which produce beautiful flowers like the red one we can see. For this reason some bromeliads have economic importance as ornamental plants. Finally at the right we can see some tree ferns that can growth several meters and are specially adapted to cold temperatures too.
Yesterday I found a link to Chris Jackson’s blog (Tapir Caper http://tapircaper.blogspot.com) and found a nice picture of several wood tapirs that Chris is producing to celebrate World’s Tapir Day on April 27th. That image brought to my mind a similar one that I took some time ago to a group of ceramic young mountain tapirs (Above) that I made for the Tapir Preservation Fund’s online gift shop. This tapirs are out of production, but I think there could be still some pieces at TPF’s gift shop http://www.tapirback.com/tapirgal/gifts/friends/tapirs.htm. Any way, no matter what people choose from the gift shop, the idea is to celebrate World Tapir Day contributing to tapir conservation in some way.
When working with elusive animals like tapirs or bears, I was frequently asked about how many tapirs or bears I had seen in the field. My answer was “I had never seen them, I just work with their signs”. So people maybe thought it wasn’t a serious work. “How can he study those animals if he never sees them?” In reality a collection of signs (tracks, feeding sins, droppings, hairs, etc.) when well analyzed give us more information than simple direct sightings. At the end a sighting become just an anecdotic event, something to tell to your friends when drinking a few beers. But, well, sightings can be really important if you want to get support for your project; people want to invest in tangible things, isn’t it?
I found this picture taken in 2004 in Puracé National Park, Colombia, during a field journey studying mountain tapir habitat. It's pretty incredible how much biodiversity is contained in that small plot of paramo habitat. I think is a 5x5 meters plot, but the biodiversity is countless.
I finally found a recent picture of the young mountain tapir rescued from the traffic at Huila region in Colombia. It was taken by Edna Fernanda Jimenez, the veterinarian in charge of this tapir. Now the tapir is an adult male that losses all the stripes that are used for camouflage when young. I still don’t know what’s going on with this animal, which was the first mountain tapir rescued from the traffic in decades here in Colombia. It is know that in some places along mountain tapir range people held mountain tapirs in their farms. Usually, a mother is hunted and her calf is captured and kept in the farm as a domestic animal, eating kitchen waste. I think that once the animal is big enough it’s probably killed for its meat. It’s urgently needed a national program focused on the rescue and research on mountain tapirs, probably the most endangered big mammal along Latin America.
Since I began my work with tapir conservation seven years ago, I always wanted a picture side by side with a tapir, no matter if at some zoo or if in the wild. It finally came to pass in 2005 when a baby mountain tapir was rescued from the traffic by the environmental authorities in the south of my country. I traveled several miles to a place were the animal was kept in a small enclosure, near the town of