Lowland Tapir Conservation Initiative February 2012

  • Patricia Medici
  • News
  • fevereiro 13, 2012
  • 0 Comment

Dear Supporters of the Lowland Tapir Conservation Initiative,

Another year has started… I hope 2012 has been treating all of you VERY WELL!

We are now stuck in our offices while the Pantanal floods very rapidly. We still managed to go to the field in January to retrieve our camera-traps, move some of our box traps to different locations and radio-track all our radio-collared tapirs, but it was already very difficult to get out of our study area… lots of water flooding in. We will now take advantage of our time in the office to write, write, write… proposals, reports, papers, book chapters etc etc etc! It is also a good time to run progress data analyses, so in early March I will spend one week with my GIS guru – Rafael Martins – analyzing the telemetry and camera-trap data we have collected here in the Pantanal since 2008! I will send you a report of preliminary results as soon as they come out of the oven!

We have just put together our ANNUAL SCHEDULE OF EXPEDITIONS FOR 2012! We scheduled our capture expeditions as well as our general data collection expeditions (radio-tracking, camera-trapping etc). All expeditions will take place at Baía das Pedras Ranch, www.baiadaspedras.com.br, the study area of the Pantanal Tapir Program. I would like to share the dates of my capture expeditions with all of you in the case someone wants to join our Volunteer Program or organize group visits or eco-tours to our study area in the Pantanal!!! Just let me know if you would like to work with us as a volunteer and/or organize a visit and we will help you plan a wonderful Pantanal experience!!! In the end of this message you will find a compilation of wonderful testimonies from previous volunteers talking about their experiences here in the field with us!

The dates of our 2012 capture expeditions are the following:
• May 14-29 (16 days)
• July 9-27 (19 days)
• September 17 – October 5 (19 days)
• November 8-23 (16 days)
• December 1-16 (16 days)

We are hoping that in 2012 we will capture, radio-collar and sample as many tapirs as we did in 2011!!!!!!

I would like to mention that in July and December we will be in the field together with the Giant Armadillo Project team which means that volunteers joining us for those expeditions would have the opportunity to participate in both projects! Also, it is VERY important to mention that in July and December we will have our kids in the field with us … which means extra fun! This year, my husband Arnaud Desbiez (coordinator of the Giant Armadillo Project) and I had to organize ourselves so that we can take turns going to the field. While one goes to the field the other stays behind at home to take care of the kids (and work in the office, of course!). Gabriel and Duda started school last week, but we still managed to schedule 2 joint expeditions when we can all be together in the field, during the kids’ holidays. Therefore, if you join us in July or December, please be prepared to help babysit!!!Speaking of the kids, in January we took them to the Pantanal for the first time! We have started the brainwashing process as we need more conservationists in this world! I am attaching a few pictures for you.

We continue to put a lot of effort into getting media exposure for the tapir conservation cause in Brazil!!!

• In December 2011, BBC Mundo published an overview of our tapir conservation efforts here in Brazil. You can read it here (in Spanish): LINK

• In the end of 2011, the Lowland Tapir Conservation Initiative was profiled in two TV shows in Brazil, both on Globo TV Channel. The first was a piece on a documentary show called Globo Repórter. This is a Friday night show, extremely popular in Brazil. You can see the piece (in Portuguese, sorry!) here: LINK

• A few days later, another piece talking about successful partnerships between field researchers and conservationists with landowners in the Pantanal was broadcasted by the Globo Regional Network in the State of Mato Grosso do Sul: LINK

• A recent article on the Website of the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) talks about our efforts to raise the profile of tapirs in Brazil: LINK

We will continue to work very hard to keep tapirs visible in the media here in Brazil. I will keep sending the links your way!!! I am more and more convinced that this is one of the main tools we can use to get more Brazilians to learn and care about these wonderful animals………

On a related note, the Chester Zoo has just put together a collage of photos from some of the projects they support on their website and the Lowland Tapir Conservation Initiative was included!!!! Check this out: http://www.chesterzoo.org/conservation-and-research/latest-field-news/photo-review-2011

The environmental journalist Liana John and I continue to work on our Tapir Coffee Book Table! Wonderful photos have been selected, an editor has been chosen and we are now working on the text! We are struggling to raise funds for the publication of the book, so PLEASE let me know if you have any suggestions! In the meantime, Liana and I are getting ready to launch a major education campaign focused on tapirs and their habitats!!! The campaign will be called “Minha Amiga é uma Anta” (MY FRIEND IS A TAPIR) and the main targets will be children and teenagers. The campaign will include several different components: MY FRIEND IS A TAPIR brochure (see the cover attached!), including loads of information about tapirs, photos and fantastic illustrations by Brazilian cartoonist Luccas Longo (please see some of them attached!); MY FRIEND IS A TAPIR website, including again lots of information, photos, videos (including a fantastic introductory video of our tapir hostess, the ANFITRIANTA!), puzzles, downloadable coloring plates, and kids will be able to join the MY FRIEND IS A TAPIR club and download a membership card!; social media profiles on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube; the brochure will be available for download on the website and we have managed to raise funds to print 50,000 copies which we will distribute in schools throughout Brazil, but particularly in the regions where the Lowland Tapir Conservation Initiative is active (for now the Atlantic Forest and Pantanal regions)! I will make sure to send you the link to the MY FRIEND IS A TAPIR website as soon as it is launched… sometime in March! I can´t wait!!!

Speaking of books… I would like to call your attention to a wonderful book that has just been published! It is called “Wildlife Heroes: 40 Leading Conservationists and the Animals They Are Committed to Saving.” It was written by Julie Scardina and Jeff Flocken. Jeff is a member of the IUCN/SSC Tapir Specialist Group (TSG) and long time supporter of tapir conservation worldwide!!!! Jeff made sure to include tapirs in the book and I am one of the 40 conservationists profiled!!! I would like to thank Jeff profusely, a thousand times, for all his efforts to spread the word about the tapir conservation cause!!! You can buy the book here… it is a MUST read: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0762443197/ref=tsm_1_fb_lk

Still speaking of books… book author Sy Montgomery and photographer Nic Bishop are putting the final touches on their next children´s book… THE TAPIR SCIENTIST!!!!! Sy and Nic spent 12 days in the Pantanal with us last August and we are now anxious for the publication of the book!!!! Sy and Nic´s previous books include “The Quest for the Tree Kangaroo: An Expedition to the Cloud Forest of New Guinea”, profiling the work of Lisa Dabek, and “Saving the Ghost of the Mountain” profiling

Tom McCarthy and his incredible efforts to save snow leopards!

Last but definitely not least, I would like to share a very nice piece of news with all of you. This year, my organization here in Brazil – IPÊ – Instituto de Pesquisas Ecológicas (Institute for Ecological Research) – turns 20 years old! IPÊ was founded in 1992 and I am proud to say I was one of the founding members! We are now celebrating 2 decades of conservation work in this country… with lots of accomplishments to share and replicate! We are organizing several special activities to celebrate throughout the year! I am attaching a copy of the commemorative logo designed as part of our celebrations!

Ok… I think this is it for today… just sharing some recent developments and news!

I will be back soon to share some of the preliminary results coming out of our preliminary data analyses in March! Stay tuned!!!!!!

Thank you SO, VERY MUCH for your constant support!!!!! I truly appreciate it! Please come visit us in the Pantanal this year!!!

All the best,

Pati and LTCI Team

Testimonies from Previous Volunteers of the Pantanal Tapir Program

I believe that one is defined by what kind of attitude one has in life. Positive, easy-going and sensitivity to others’ needs are characteristics that are worth their weight in gold. Add this to a strong dedication and commitment to the environment and you have a potent mix. Patricia and the tapir team have much of these qualities in abundance. Their vast knowledge and enthusiasm to share their experiences made learning so much fun. I felt like I was in a dream while I was in the Pantanal with the team. Every day not only got better but was such an invaluable learning experience for me. No amount of imagining prior to getting there armed me for the intense surroundings and work with the tapirs. I cannot think which of these things stood out more: the beaming smiles everyday in the morning (not kidding about the smiles) on everyone’s face, the early yet quiet sunrises to launch each day, the eager anticipation of finding a tapir in the traps, the intense capture routine, the happy sigh after the release, the beautiful endless miles of driving on the open range, the satisfying camaraderie, leg-pulling and acceptance of the team, the gorgeous sunsets, the breathless drives in the dark nights looking for tapir silhouettes and glowing eyes or the impromptu sightings of the fascinating wildlife all around. My time with the tapir team has inspired me and makes me want to be like them. I think I may have left a bit of myself there. I am surely going back soon. Oh, I forgot, Patricia Medici is my hero!

Sachin Shahria, World Bank, United States (2011)

At the end of November 2011, I went for one of the most amazing adventures in my life. Givskud Zoo Nature Fund has supported the tapir research done by Patrícia Medici for many years. By chance we met at a conference in Denmark a few years back and she suggested that I joined her crew as a volunteer for a field trip into the Pantanal. Since I have never been to South America and since the project is one of the most interesting conservation projects we have supported, I decided to go there in late 2011. Arriving in Campo Grande airport with half of her team: the veterinarian Renata Santos and the darting specialist Gabriel Damasceno, I was met with a big surprise. Patrícia had on that very same day become the mother of two children, ages 4 and 2! This of course gave her a practical challenge for the upcoming field trip, but she managed to become both a mother and do her field trip in a very persuasive way. Leaving Patrícia behind in Campo Grande to get her new children, the rest of the group, now including veteran field assistant José Maria de Aragão, we went along to the Pantanal, to the Baía das Pedras Ranch. Being four times the size of the country of Denmark, the Pantanal is just amazing and for sure should be considered a world heritage biotope. It very quickly became obvious to me that the combination of traditional extensive cattle ranching and the ecology of the Pantanal floodplain is one of the few examples of human/nature interactions where conservation and human exploitation holds a very good chance of combining successfully. The biggest challenge is keeping the traditional cattle ranching profitable. If this is possible, the wildlife of the Pantanal also has a very good chance of remaining as well. Ecotourism could be a positive add to this. Being a guest at Baía das Pedras under the exquisite care of the owners: Rita and Carlos, for sure gives you a five star experience. Knowing the place some would say that the instability of the Internet and the lack of mobile contact make the fifth star impossible – I say that’s exactly what gives the whole place five stars. I have a lot of travelling experience from Africa and for sure the Pantanal cannot compete with the wildlife numbers of the African savannas. But during my ten days at Baía das Pedras I had a lot of amazing eye-opening wildlife experiences. All with a quality and uniqueness able to stand up to what you might see anywhere else in the world. In just a few days I managed to see almost all the big mammal species in the area, except the big cats. However, by chance a highly unusual guest in the area, a jaguar, was caught on one of the camera traps used to monitor the tapirs. That was really a major thrill and everybody was very excited. We managed to catch five tapirs and a lot of peccaries and feral pigs in the traps during my stay. This was of course the highlight of the trip. Due to my profession as a Zoo Director, tapirs at close calls are not new to me, but catching these amazing creatures was still what this was all about. The intensity of the whole team just rose immediately when we caught a tapir. It was a pleasure to see how professional the team performed the measurements and the sampling of the animals. Everything was done in just 45 minutes. The anesthesia was reversed and the tapirs could return to the safety of the bushes. Being with Patrícia and her team was in itself an amazing experience. You have to look long for more interesting, informative and caring people. One of the tapirs we caught was a female called “Rita”. This was her fourth recapture! I think that really goes to prove that being in the hands of Patrícia and her team is actually a very pleasant experience. I for sure will not hesitate to walk into the Pantanal trap again – in fact I will do all I can to return to this amazing place and these amazing people again as soon as possible.

Richard Osterballe, Director, Givskud Zoo, Denmark (2011)

The three weeks I spent as a volunteer in the Brazilian Pantanal with Patrícia Medici and her tapir team was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. First, the place is beautiful and very well preserved. Today, it is very difficult to find places where humans and wildlife live in harmony. In fact, I did not expect to see so much wildlife so easily. Lots of birds, tapirs, pumas, giant anteaters, coatis, armadillos and many other animals were regularly around us. People at the ranch are extremely nice, and the food is delicious. Working with tapirs was extremely interesting. It is always great to work with wild animals but it is so rare to be able to capture, manipulate and sample such large and discrete mammals as the Brazilian tapir. We were very lucky during the November 2011 expedition and thanks to the very rigorous scientific work of Patrícia Medici we manage to catch and radio-collar many tapirs and each time it was a very exciting experience. In these moments, I really had the feeling to be part of wildlife conservation. I truly expect to continue participating in tapir conservation and to be able to come back to the Pantanal!

Dorothée Ordonneau, Veterinarian, France, (2011)

This past September, I had the opportunity to participate in a two week capture round with Pati and the tapir team in the Pantanal. The team has worked together for well over a decade and it shows in both their everyday camaraderie and their professionalism during captures, which can be tense situations. Watching Pati, Paulo (veterinarian) and Jose (field assistant) work together is like watching a well-oiled machine, as they set and check traps, scan the dirt for tapir tracks, dart and perform health checks on the tapirs and collect various swabs, tissues, physical measurements and attach GPS collars. I got to help to collect hair and tick samples and hand supplies over to the team as necessary at times when they were working inside the box trap with a tapir. Back at the ranch, a lab was set up in one of the rooms so that samples could be processed and analyzed within a few hours of being obtained and data entered on the computer. Pati is meticulous, super organized and dedicated to her work. She could show me graphs of capture effort and success for different periods of the day and different capture methods. She was often up late into the evenings entering data or programming GPS collars. I got to experience the highs and lows of field research- daily off-road drives through the study area where we could see an incredible diversity of animals including giant anteaters, capybaras, wood storks, jabiru storks, rheas, hyacinth macaws, toucans, tagu lizards, cassowaries, collared and white-lipped peccaries, caiman and coati and anacondas, the tediousness of opening and closing many fences as we went along, the anticipation each morning as we checked each trap, sometimes finding a tapir, sometimes finding a sprung trap with a pig, or a deer or nothing inside but puma tracks outside it. There were two occasions where Jose and Paulo fell into the traps while animals were inside. Thanks goodness the peccaries in those instances were more bark than bite! Of course we also had to deal with vehicle trouble, working in heat and rain and some nights seemingly getting eaten by mosquitoes or ticks as we waited quietly for a tapir to come to a watering hole. But, we also saw some amazing sunsets while staking out those watering holes and when the stars came out – WOW! Although the field work could, at times, be challenging, it was always nice to come back to the ranch house, where we were welcomed by Rita, Carlos, other members of their family and employees who always took an interest in how our day went and made sure that our thirsts were quenched with amazing fruit juices and stomachs were full with hearty foods. The owners of the ranch wholeheartedly embrace the tapir project and provide tremendous support. They often go above and beyond to increase their conservation efforts. While I was there, they had worked with Pati and IPE to organize a plant nursery training workshop so that workers from nearby ranches could learn how they can cultivate native tree species to help to rehabilitate the land and increase food and habitat for wildlife in the Pantanal. Pati gave a presentation to the workshop attendees and also to the guests of the ranch (as she usually does) about the tapir project. I would highly recommend this program to those interested in wildlife and sustainable tourism as it truly is an amazing place to view wildlife and you will be supporting incredibly dedicated conservation scientists and a family tourism operation that is top notch.

Sonia di Fiore, Cleveland, United States (2009)

In May 2009, I was given the rare and unique opportunity to visit Pati Medici’s lowland tapir project in the Brazilian Pantanal. I spent 2 weeks in the field with Pati and her staff. It was an experience I will never forget. It was fascinating to observe Pati’s team as they organized and prepared all of the equipment needed to carry out a two week field project. They work extremely well together. The years of experience and training each individual brings to the field and contributes to the project is clearly evident. I came away from this trip with a renewed respect for field biologists and an increased passion for tapir conservation. I learned something different from each member of the team, from scientific methodology to animal behavior and biology. The highlight of the trip was the capture and radio collaring of a beautiful female tapir. It was a dramatic series of carefully orchestrated vents – beginning with the pursuit of a darted tapir in the dark through mud and thick forest and ending with the attachment of the radio collar and watching her dash away into the night. Visiting Pati’s project site and accompanying Pati and her team in the field will open a new perspective to tapir conservation. It certainly did for me. The Pantanal project site is breathtaking and the opportunity to see a wide array of rare and endangered wildlife shouldn’t be missed.

Kelly Russo, Houston Zoo, United States (2009)

Dear Pati, I’ve done quite a bit of prowling around with wildlife savers, particular in Africa, but never as intensively on the spot, in terms of details and techniques, as with you in the Pantanal. I feel part of the process now, and want to return in three years – and will – to see how matters stand as a result of these (your) efforts. And please, please keep me on the email list for your reports.
Charlie Perlitz, Houston, United States (2009)

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