The Tapir Gallery
Craig C. Downer
The photo at the top of this page shows "Esperanza," a baby mountain tapir of Ecuador.
Why bother to save the tapirs?
Besides the obvious reason that a beautiful creature that's been on the planet for an estimated 35 million years - whose traceable ancestry probably reaches back about 60 million years - should not be exterminated in a few short lifetimes by humans, there are some very practical reasons to save mountain tapirs.
The Andes are a watershed for humans and animals alike.
The destruction of this watershed is already in progress. Villages in Ecuador and other Andean countries are already without water because humanity has devastated the source of this water. Desertification has already begun. This is not a hypothesis of what may happen, it is today's reality. This situation is widespread through out the Andes; some of the occurrences in Ecuador are in areas south of Sangay and also near the Colombian border.
How are the watersheds being destroyed?
In several ways. One has to do with tapirs and other animals. Where the animals have been hunted to extinction, the trees disappear. Downer has recently studied the tapir's role in dispersing seeds needed to maintain healthy forest growth. In turn, the forest is vital in maintaining the watershed. Without trees, the land becomes a desert, and populated areas within the drainage of this watershed become waterless as a result.
Can these ecosystems be saved?
Yes, they can! But it's going to take a lot of hard work in a short period of time.
© Copyright 1996 by Craig C. Downer; all rights reserved. Used by permission.
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