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56. Mountain Tapir

Tapirus pinchaque


The second smallest and most endangered of the five species of tapir, the mountain tapir survives in a few remaining undisturbed refuges high in the Andes.

It is also known as the woolly tapir because of its thick woolly fur, which keeps it warm in freezing night-time temperatures. They are very agile climbers, able to negotiate the steep mountain slopes, snow banks and even glaciers with ease. There are five species of tapir, all within the only genus in the Tapiride family; Tapirus. The group are part of a formerly diverse order, the Perissodactyla, which today is only represented by horses, rhinos and tapirs. Like other tapirs, this species has a long prehensile nose capable of grasping leaves. It is hunted for its meat, pelt and body parts, which are used in traditional folk medicine. They have a plethora of threats, from the construction of new highways, habitat destruction and degradation; including large tracks of mature montane forests being converted to opium fields, creation of dams, to the introduction of cattle into their range imposing disease risks – among others, leading to high fragmented populations spread through Columbia, Ecuador and northern Peru. Fewer than 2,500 are thought to remain.

  • Order: Perissodactyla
  • Family: Tapiridae
  • Population: <2,500
  • Trend: decreasing
  • Size: 1.8-2.5m
  • Weight: 150-320g

EDGE Score

EDGE Score: 5.31 (?)
ED Score: 24.4 (?)
GE / IUCN Red List (?)
Not Evaluated Data Deficient Least Concern Near Threatened Vulnerable Endangered Critically Endangered Extinct in the Wild Extinct


Endemic to the Andes Mountains in Colombia, Ecuador and possibly northern Peru. Historically it has been reported in Venezeula, although there is no definite evidence that has its range ever extended this far.

Habitat and Ecology

The mountain tapir is the only tapir that does not inhabit tropical forests, as it lives in the high Andes; where temperatures are regularly below freezing. It is most commonly found at altitudes of 2,000-4,300m in montane cloud forests, riverine meadows and páramo grasslands (alpine meadows). They feed on a variety of leaves, seeds and shoots – being crucial seed dispersers. Tapirs become sexually mature at around 3-4 years of age, and females then give birth to a single calf (or occasionally twins) once every two years.

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Conservation Actions

For each key category of conservation action, we calculated a conservation attention score based on expert information. In this graph, a higher score means the action is being carried out more intensively over more of the species range. The colour shows how important each action is considered to be for the conservation of this species.

Engaging stakeholders
Addressing threats
Status of knowledge
Management plan
Capacity building
Behaviour change
Awareness raising
  Score: 100 means the activity occurs at high level across more than 75% of the species range
Very Low

Overall Conservation Attention

We combined all of the expert information on conservation actions to calculate an overall conservation attention score for this species. Please help us to reach our goal of establishing dedicated conservation attention at “High” levels for all EDGE species.

Very Low Low Medium High

More information

Recent studies have grouped all possible conservation activities for any species into nine key categories (Washington et. al 2015). For each action, we asked experts for each species to assess the extent to which that action is being carried out and how much of the species’ range that action occurs in. For each action we used these two pieces of information to calculate the conservation attention score per action. A score of 100 means that the action is being carried out to a high level across at least 75% of the species range. We then combined the scores for all actions into an overall conservation attention score for the species. The experts also judged how important each category was to the conservation of that particular species.

This wordcloud illustrates the threats facing this species. The size of each word indicates the extent of a species range that is affected by that threat (larger size means a greater area is affected). The colour of the word indicates how much that threat impacts the species (darker shades of red mean the threat is more severe).

Crops Wood plantations Livestock Mining Hunting Logging

Threat wordcloud key:

Small area affected
Large area affected
Least severe
Most severe
Severity unknown
Source: The IUCN List of Threatened Species. Version 2017.1.
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