My name is Esteban Brenes-Mora, a Costa Rican biologist and EDGE Fellow. I will be spending the next two years working to conserve the largest neotropical land mammal – Baird’s Tapir (Tapirus bairdii). As a young biologist, I want to conduct conservation research to improve the decision-making and management processes related to biodiversity conservation. I strongly believe that scientific and local communities must work together in order to effectively conserve wildlife.
Through my EDGE Fellowship, I want to contribute to the conservation of Baird’s tapir and other mammals affected by road development. I will be gathering quantitative information on the population status and ecology of this species in a highland protected area in Costa Rica that appears suitable for their conservation, but has been barely studied and are under threat from the traffic along the Panamerican Highway. I will be assessing the influence of highways and other landscape variables on tapir’s habitat use in Cordillera de Talamanca.
My research results can potentially be used to implement road mitigation actions in hotspots with high intensity of tapir habitat use. Furthermore, if I manage to determine important landscape factors that influence the utilization of certain ‘dangerous’ zones by tapirs, I will work together with the park rangers to advise how the government can implement smart green infrastructure or other mitigation measures to improve the connectivity for tapirs and other mammals between road-fragmented habitats.
While collecting baseline data, I will be working on a community outreach programme with the rangers and teachers to raise public awareness for the protection of this endangered mammal. This education initiative aims to inspire the local community and stakeholders to participate in the monitoring and conservation of wildlife in the highlands. Overall, my research will highlight the importance of the Cordillera de Talamanca for tapir conservation and provide us with a better understanding on how roads affect wildlife.