January 24, 2013 9:47 am
Good news for tapirs, the odd forest dwelling South American mammals that look something like a cross between a deer, pig and anteater. Scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Society just discovered a thriving population of these strange beasts in a network of remote corridors connecting five national parks along the Peru-Bolivia border.
At least 14,500 lowland tapirs live throughout this jungle haven, the scientists found, by setting camera traps and interviewing park guards and hunters.
Lowland tapirs can weigh up to 660 pounds, making them the largest terrestrial mammals in South America. Tapirs use their prehensile proboscis (a weird name for “snout”) to snatch up high hanging leaves and fruit. They suffer from habitat loss throughout their range in South America’s tropical forests and grasslands, and their low birth rates—one baby every two or three years—keeps numbers low.
For now, however, tapirs seem to be doing just fine in this corner of the continent, a welcome bit of good news in a field normally dominated by felled forests and declining species.
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