SSC Specialist Group celebrates success of the First International Tapir Symposium

Gland, Switzerland (20.12.01) IUCN-The World Conservation Union. Global efforts towards tapir conservation have received great impetus thanks to the success of the First International Tapir Symposium that took place in Costa Rica recently.

Adult lowland tapir (Tapirus terrestris)

ever before have so many tapir experts and conservationists assembled in one place to share knowledge and address future challenges for these species. Symposium participants included field researchers, husbandry and captive management specialists, NGO and university representatives, other key players in the development and implementation of tapir conservation programmes, and almost half of the SSC Tapir Specialist Group (TSG) membership. The broad-ranging presentations provided a complete overview of current tapir research (in situ and ex situ), conservation, education, veterinary, husbandry and management issues.

The TSG was instrumental in organising the event, together with the American Zoo and Aquarium Association, Tapir Taxon Advisory Group, and the Tapir Preservation Fund. For 15 years, the TSG, as a global network of tapir experts and conservationists, has contributed to the conservation of biological diversity by developing, and executing practical programs to study, save and manage tapirs and their habitats.

Tapirs are among the world's lesser-known large animals (in South America they are the largest mammal) but are highly charismatic with their distinctive flexible snouts. There are four species (Baird's, mountain, lowland and Malay), which Courtesy of the Tapir Galleryweigh between about 350 and 800 pounds, inhabit forest in Central and South America, and Southeast Asia, and live for up to 25-30 years. Their closest relatives are horses and rhinos. All four species are threatened through habitat destruction and hunting.

"The level of zoo participation was notable - 10 years ago there was little or no collaboration between zoos and tapir field researchers - today, modern zoos are focusing more on their primary mission of conservation and are using their animals as ambassadors for their wild counterparts," said Patricia Medici, Chair of the Tapir Specialist Group. Over 80% of the symposium's budget was covered by donations from four major zoos (Houston, Los Angeles, Disney and San Diego).

"The event will be remembered not only for its logistical success, bringing together a wealth of experts, but also for its direct impact on Costa Rica's wildlife. Organisers were keen that it would be an event of great scientific value, with prominent tapir speakers giving insight into current priorities, whilst also having a direct and local impact on biological conservation," said Medici.

During the symposium an auction raised $10,000 to help buy 15 hectares of threatened rainforest in Costa Rica. The $5,000 raised by participants was matched by the Wege Foundation and will be used to purchase a plot of land in the Area de Conservacion Guanacaste in north-western Costa Rica.

The main outcomes from the many presentations and seminars, soon to be available online, included the decision to review the 1997 Tapir Action Plan and to hold a similar symposium every two years. The Tapir Specialist Group also underwent some important structural changes and welcomed several new members.

Tapir Specialist Group coordinatorsTSG members are keen to ensure that the recommendations emerging from the symposium are published and implemented quickly bringing immediate and long term benefits for tapir conservation worldwide. The proceedings will be available in 2002 and are seen as of much importance as the symposium itself.

The group also raises and distributes funds to help the conservation of tapirs and their habitats, promotes communication among tapir conservationists in general, not only TSG members, and works to establish a greater cooperation between field researchers, TSG members, and the zoo community.

More information on the Tapir Specialist Group

Or contact:

Chair, IUCN/SSC Tapir Specialist Group Patrícia Medici, E-mail:
Deputy Chair, IUCN/SSC Tapir Specialist Group Charles Foerster (Baird's Tapir Project Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica) E-mail:

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