Tapirs are crazy hilarious. They are like gentle, kind of inane giants of the forest. But every time I’ve seen a tapir on the farm, save once, it’s been when a tapir was chilling in the soybean fields, a la this photo. That compound of houses in the background is our field site, where we all stay and where I have my little lab room.
Being on the edge of rapid deforestation (i.e., an area that has changed dramatically in, say, the last 15 years, from mostly a wild forest system to mostly a series of big farms with some forest in between them, like where I do my research) has the very surreal but cool side effect of lots of animals still being around even though it’s basically a human-dominated system at this point. My speculation would be that there just hasn’t been enough time for these local populations to die off/retreat further back into the forest. Instead, I see a lot of very cool animals very often, despite the fact that the forest around us is very fragmented.
My friend Oswaldo Carvalho has done some research on this – he put up camera traps (that take a photo when something walks by) in a bunch of areas of forest around farms in Mato Grosso to see what species were utilizing the habitat around agriculture. Turns out, it was tons of species and a surprisingly high density of individuals. Plus, he got dope photos of a bunch of crazy rare Amazon animals. I don’t think that work is published yet, but when it is I will put up a link.
This photo was taken earlier this week when I was on the way to do some sampling of nitrogen-derived greenhouse gases. Nitrogen! Climate change! Field measurements! Woohoo!
Update: I found a link to a write up of some of the outreach work that Oswaldo about his results – he distributed pamphlets to landowners letting them know what kind of species tend to live on the lands around them and how they can support that biodiversity. And he found 37 medium to large species, including pumas (which I’ve seen on our farm) and jaguars (which I have not). So rad!