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Keywords:

  • Baird's tapir;
  • Honduras;
  • population viability analysis;
  • PRESENCE;
  • VORTEX

Abstract

During the International Tapir Symposium 16–21 Oct 2011, the conservation of Baird's tapir (Tapirus bairdii) in Honduras received a boost with the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Minister Director of the Honduran Institute of Conservation and Forestry (ICF) and the Tapir Specialist Group (TSG). Despite this agreement, accelerating levels of hunting and habitat loss continue to pose a threat to Baird's tapir in Honduras. An ongoing study in Cusuco National Park in northwestern Honduras has been monitoring changes in population dynamics of Baird's tapir since 2006 through the collection of occupancy data. The study has identified an increase in hunting pressure, coinciding with a drastic decline in the encounter rate with Baird's tapir spoor. Here, we examine the significance of a range of demographic variables on Baird's tapir occupancy in Cusuco National Park using the software PRESENCE, and simulate the effects of different management strategies on the future dynamics of the population using the stochastic simulation software VORTEX. The predictions of the theoretical population models are compared to observed changes in occupancy levels. We found that non-intervention resulted in the local extinction of Baird's tapir within a very short time frame, but that various intervention models enabled the population to recover to near carrying capacity. Occupancy and extinction probability were shown to respond markedly to the increase in hunting pressure; and occupancy models supported the future population predictions generated by VORTEX. Our study suggests that immediate intervention is required to reduce hunting pressure to near historical levels to prevent the imminent local extinction of the species.