Tapirs take center stage in a new conservation initiative

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Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.
Tapirs may not be as famous as Jaguars, but they can reach weights of up to 660 lbs and are truly magnificent. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

A new project to protect one of Yucatán’s most endangered mammals is now underway. 

The Santuario del Tapir has already received an investment of 15 million pesos from private donors but is also expected to receive government funds. 

The project comes on the heels of the construction of a perimeter fence to protect the Jaguars of Quintana Roo’s Bioreserve in Tulum. 

Native to the Yucatán Peninsula and Central America, the tapir is a large and extremely endangered herbivorous mammal easily identifiable by its long snout. 

The location of the new tapir habitat is to be located in the municipalities of Kinchil and Celestún, where there are ample water sources as well as lush vegetation. 

Despite the common belief that tapirs are related to wild hogs, these large animals are actually genetically much closer to horses and rhinoceros than any variety of swine. 

Tapir sighting in the state of Yucatán have become extremely rare, with their largest populations in Mexico being concentrated in southern Campeche, largely within the Calakmul biosphere

Earlier: New Maya Train route to run directly over cenotes

But environmentalists fear that habitat loss linked with the construction of the Maya Train could further endanger the number of tapirs in the region. 

“Tapirs are wonderful animals and have been living on the Peninsula since time immemorial, they need and deserve our help,” said project director Epigmenio Cruz Aldá.

Because so few tapirs live in the wild on the Yucatán Peninsula, the sanctuary is working with zoos in Belize and Guatemala to help bolster their numbers and avoid having too shallow a gene pool. 

Biologists claim that if everything goes to plan, in 15 to 20 years, tapirs may be reintroduced to the wild. 

Due to their size (up to 660 lbs), adult tapirs can potentially be dangerous to humans and should not be approached if spotted in the wild. However, attacks are extremely rare.