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?
This is a short video clip filmed at Purace National Park. This is a volcanic area inhabited by the mountain tapir and other big mammals like the andean bear and some deer species. It’s nice to put your hands inside this hot water when there is really cold around. But you have to be careful because of the sulfurous gases. I liked the sound around, specially the bird singing.
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 found in my files a short video of Poncho, the mountain tapir from Huila region. Altough of poor quality this video clip, taken in 2005, is very cute. We hope Poncho is going well. I'm trying to know how is everything with him. However, People in charge of this tapir had been a little reserved and give little details about the project that is being performed with Poncho.
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.