A Tapir Gallery Press Clipping
Woman uses Internet in her fight to save tapirs
August 2, 1996
Jim Van Pelt
Special to The Daily Sentinel
[Grand Junction, Colorado]
- Palisade resident Sheryl Todd's computer reaches pretty far - more than 3,300 miles, into the mountain cloud forests of Ecuador.
- Through their World Wide Web site Todd and her husband, Marco Herranz, have become one of the centers of effort to save the endangered mountain tapir, a little-known animal whose role in preserving the cloud forests is becoming increasingly apparent.
- Todd, 47, first became interested in tapirs in 1968, when she raised a pair of them in Claremont, Calif. One she gave to a zoo in Houston, and the other went to the San Diego Zoo, where it lived for 26 years.
- Todd, a self-described Internet entrepreneur, decided in March to take her knowledge to the Internet.
- "What I originally intended was an information site, because there wasn't much information about them," Todd said. "I wanted it to be a site where we could pull together information and photos."
- Through the Internet, Todd learned about wildlife ecologist Craig Downer, who was doing work to study and preserve the mountain tapir.
- In June, Todd added a conservation segment to her tapir site on the Web; through it, anyone with a computer, modem and the proper software can learn about tapirs and the current state of the conservation effort.
- The mountain tapir is an agile, solitary, nocturnal animal that is closely related to the prehistoric horse. It weighs up to 350 pounds, and its low reproduction rate and decreasing range have contributed to its decline.
- Downer estimates there are fewer than 2,500 mountain tapirs left, and they may become extinct in as few as five to 10 years.
- "The tapir is a vital link into the preservation of the rain forest," Downer said.
- Downer's research shows that where the tapirs have been hunted to extinction, the trees disappear.
- The tapirs are a major contributor to seed dispersal, which is needed to maintain forest growth.
- The forest, in turn, is vital in maintaining the watershed; without trees, the land becomes a desert, which has already happened in several areas.
- Although they have never met in person, Todd and Downer have arranged for Downer to make a slide and film presentation Aug. 10 at Avalon Theatre, 645 Main St. The program begins at 7 p.m.
- Downer said the presentation will include scenes of collaring and tracking tapirs, Andean vistas, volcanic activity and life among the indigenous people of Ecuador.
- Todd said she plans to keep her Web site up to date with the latest news of the mountain tapir, and to provide a place where ecologically minded individuals can contribute to efforts to save it and the Andean cloud forests.
- "Save the Mountain Tapirs, Save the Andes," a multimedia presentation by wildlife ecoiogist Craig Downer, will be from 7 to 9:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 10 at Avalon Theatre, 645 Main St.
- Tickets - $6 for anyone older than 12 - will be sold at the door. All proceeds will benefit the Andean Tapir Fund.
- To get to Sheryl Todd's site on the World Wide Web, set your browser to http:/www.tapirback.com/tapirgal/mountain/
The Daily Sentinel can be reached at (970) 242-5050
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