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Baird’s Tapir

Tapirus bairdii


Baird’s tapir is the largest indigenous mammal in Central America. Tapirs are a ‘primitive’ group that resemble the ancestor of rhinos and horses, and have remained morphologically similar for the last 35 million years.

The closest relative to tapirs is actually rhinos, and they last shared a common ancestor around 50 million years ago! There are only five currently existing tapir species in the genus Tapirus, the only genus in the family Tapiridae.

Baird’s Tapir is characterised by a long, fleshy nose, like a shortened version of an elephant’s trunk. This shy and rarely seen mammal lives in the tropical forests and grasslands of Central America.

The species is currently declining primarily as a result of habitat destruction, due to expanding agriculture and mega infrastructure, hunting, and disease transmission from domestic animals. Climate change is likely also causing an increase in the severity of droughts in Mexico’s Calakmul Reserve, resulting in a steep decline in tapir populations. Each of these threats have led to the population being highly fragmented making gene flow between populations difficult. Its low reproductive rate makes it even more vulnerable to these threats.

  • Order: Perissodactyla
  • Family: Tapiridae
  • Population: Unknown
  • Trend: decreasing
  • Size: 1.8-2.5m
  • Weight: 150-320kg
GE / IUCN Red List (?)
Not Evaluated Data Deficient Least Concern Near Threatened Vulnerable Endangered Critically Endangered Extinct in the Wild Extinct


It is now extinct in parts of its former range, and persists in relatively small pockets of remaining habitat in Colombia, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Panama.

Habitat and Ecology

The species can live in a wide variety of habitats, including tropical forests, woodlands, grasslands and marshes. They eat a variety of leaves, twigs, fruit and seeds. Tapirs possess micro-organisms in their guts to digest plant material, and they must eat a large amount of food daily. Births occur throughout the year, with the females giving birth to a single (or occasionally two) young after a 13 month gestation period. They young tapirs stay with their mother for up to 2 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).

Urban development Industrial development Tourism Avalanches Habitat change Droughts Extreme temperatures Extreme weather Crops Wood plantations Livestock Fossil fuel Mining Renewable energy Roads/Rail Utility lines Hunting Gathering Logging Recreation Wars Work Fire Dams Ecosystem changes Invasive species Native species Disease Wastewater Industry Agriculture Garbage Air pollution Energy

Threat wordcloud key:

Small area affected
Large area affected
Least severe
Most severe
Severity unknown
Source: EDGE

Download the Survival Blueprint for this species below. Each survival blueprint is compiled by an EDGE Fellow working on the species with input from collaborators and stakeholders. The Survival Blueprint provides a status review (information on the distribution, protection status, habitat & ecology, threat and stakeholder analysis) and more information on the action programme listed here.

Vision (30-50 years)

Thriving population of Baird tapir in Sierra Madre de Chiapas under protection by socially and economically stable local communities.

Goal (5-10 years)

Ensure Baird´s tapir conservation in Sierra Madre de Chiapas by promoting sustainable community livelihoods and improved welfare.


Promote reduction of habitat loss in communities of Sierra Madre de Chiapas High
Promote reduction of poaching in communities of Sierra Madre de Chiapas High
Reinforce educational/awareness raising program at local, state and national levels High
Promote synergy between government institutions, civil society, universities and communities High
Update IUCN red list Baird´s tapir distribution range High
Develop scientific research to understand biological characteristics fundamental for Baird´s tapir and conservation of its habitat Medium

Marina Rivero

  • Project name: Conserving the endangered Baird´s tapir (Tapirus bairdii) in La Frailescana, Chiapas, Mexico
  • Project site: Protected Area La Frailescana, Chiapas, Mexico
  • Active: 2018 - 2020
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Esteban Brenes-Mora

  • Project name: Factors affecting habitat use of Baird’s Tapir in a road-fragmented PA in Cordillera de Talamanca.
  • Project site: Cordillera de Talamanca, Costa Rica
  • Active: 2015 - 2017
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