Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Happy World Tapir Day

The tapir is our favorite animal. Each species of tapir is highly endangered due to poaching and habitat loss. We saw our first lowland tapir in Brazil several years ago, and after that, several Baird's tapirs here in Costa Rica. 

Baird's tapir on the beach.
Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica, 2009.
One group with a great online presence loves tapirs almost as much as we do and created World Tapir Day, whose facebook page is pretty great. Mike has one of their awesome shirts. World Tapir Day is April 27: today! 

What's the value of having tapirs around? They're an indication of a healthy ecosystem since they're a large mammal that can only survive with a substantial range of intact habitat (rainforest or savannah, depending on where you are as a tapir). If you're interested, learn more about them on World Tapir Day's website.

We've seen lots of posts on CNN and other sites from users asking "Why the heck should we save (whales, tigers, fill in the animal)? Just because they're cute?" (These posts often aren't spelled quite as precisely, and are sometimes profane for some reason.) We say no, not just because they're cute. The forests and savannahs as a whole need to be conserved for all of us: keeping our air clean and our water drinkable (a big problem for the Bribri here in Costa Rica--when squatters or companies come and cut down forests and graze cows or plant crops upstream, the water is no longer potable due to fertilizer and refuse). Having wildlife in the forests also promotes tourism, which is an important part of the economy in many of the countries where tapir and other neat creatures live, and is one of the most lucrative options for people seeking employment in these countries, which often have poor job markets. So we think there are plenty of reasons to care about the tapir and about wildlife in general.

On this trip, we haven't yet seen a tapir, but we're going to the Osa Peninsula after we're done here and hope to see one there. Maybe Brazil, too--we're still debating for those of you wondering.

So happy World Tapir Day, and we'll get back to writing about bird banding soon.

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