Iconic S. American tapir surveyed

Jan. 22, 2013 at 4:03 PM
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NEW YORK, Jan. 22 (UPI) -- Latin America's largest land mammal, the tapir, is thriving in a network of remote national parks spanning the Peru-Bolivia border, conservationists report.

The Wildlife Conservation Society says it estimates a healthy population of 14,500 lowland tapirs -- forest and grassland-dwelling herbivores with a trunk-like snout -- are living in five connected national parks in northwest Bolivia and southeastern Peru.

The lowland tapir is the largest land mammal in South America, weighing up to 661 pounds and using its unusual prehensile proboscis or snout is to reach leaves and fruit.

The animals are threatened by habitat loss and especially by unsustainable hunting due to their large size and low reproductive rate of just one birth every 2 to 3 years, conservationists said.

The latest population estimate is based on images from camera traps combined with interviews with park guards and subsistence hunters, a WCS release said Tuesday.

"These results underline the fundamental importance of protected areas for the conservation of larger species of wildlife threatened by hunting and habitat loss," WCS researcher Robert Wallace said.

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