|Photo: Sergio Sandoval|
During the last week of January 2015, TPF's scientific director, Sergio Sandoval, visited Cali Zoo to meet and photograph Mayo, the mountain tapir calf recently confiscated by environmental authorities in Colombia, who delivered him to the zoo with the hope of saving his life. Now Mayo is becoming a symbol for the conservation of this magnificent species.
Mountain tapirs are one of the most endangered large mammals of the Neotropics. With a restricted distribution, the threats to the species increase in times when gold mining in the paramos is the center of conflict and controversy. Environmental advocates and developers are at odds with each other. On one side are those who pledge to preserve the paramos, and on the other side those who talk about a sustainable use of them. Sadly, mining is far from being sustainable, and the only hope is that the damage to the environment after the mining is finished will be as low as possible.
Although in Colombia, the environmental authorities are currently mapping the paramos to exclude mining, the surrounding areas are becoming more and more vulnerable to it. This is bad news for mountain tapirs, because for them, the forested areas surrounding these ecosystems are as important as the paramos. All of the attention is focused on preserving paramos themselves because they represent water reservoirs for major cities, but who advocates for the mountain tapirs and other wildlife, like the Andean bear, that also need the areas surrounding the paramos to survive?
We hope that Mayo can serve as a symbol for the conservation not only of the paramos, but also of the high Andean mountains as a whole. These mountains are the last refuge for a multitude of wildlife species that evolved in the cold reaches of this unique ecosystem.
Tapir and Friends Animal Store.