News from the research project at WCC Jacj Cuisi

Between February and April 2017, the CIWY research projects moved from WCC Ambue
Ari to WCC Jacj Cuisi to study the habitat preferences of the lowland tapir (Tapirus
terrestris) within the reserve, as well as the effects, if any, that the unique felid management
style utilised by CIWY has on the wild population of this endangered species.
Unlike other large-bodied neo-tropical ungulates such as white-lipped peccary (known as
seed-predators), tapirs ingest whole fruits, subsequently dispersing intact seeds up to 2km
from parent trees, thereby altering the composition of plant communities. Tapirs also play a
key role in the identification of forest mineral licks, and through high consumption of foliage
aid in the structuring of understory plant regeneration. Therefore, their removal from
ecosystems, or factors which potentially limit their rates of occupancy, may have a
disproportionate negative effect on ecological processes when compared to their abundance
or body mass.
Binary logistic regression and a weighted model averaging approach was used to analyse
tapir habitat preferences, estimating the impact and importance of several environmental
variables (distance to year round water sources [river], distance to agriculture [agri], distance
to roads [roads], and elevation [elevation]) as well as two managerially imposed variables
(distance to trails used for the ex-situ management of pumas [trail], and the number of
independent photographic events of managed pumas taken by each camera [pumas]), across
72 camera locations with WCC Jacj Cuisi. Cameras were either deployed on trails used for
the management of felids, or at distance increments of approximately 50m to 100m away
from perimeter trails. We also included duration of camera deployment [time] as a predictive
variable to ensure that the likelihood of observing tapirs was not significantly impacted by
how long each camera was active.

In total, 5040 logistic regression models were constructed to predict tapir detection/non-
detection as a function of these variables. The model elevation+river+trail+pumas was

found to best fit the data, reaching statistical significance (X
2
(4)=33.372, p=<.005,
Nagelkerke R2=54.20%, 80.00% of all cases correctly classified), with both the variables
river and trail significantly affecting the likelihood of observing tapirs. Of the 5040 models

constructed, 11 met the criteria for being included in our model averaging approach.
Following this process, distance to year round water sources (river) was again found to have
a significant impact on the likelihood of observing tapirs (tapirs 1.65x less likely to be
observed for every 100m distance increase away from rivers, [95%CI=1.22-2.23]). However,
increasing distance to trails used for the management of felids (trails) was also found to have
a significant impact on the likelihood of observing tapirs (tapirs 11.02x more likely to be
observed for every 100m distance increase away from trails, [95%CI=1.34-90.02]). These
two variables were included in all 11 final candidate models, highlighting not only their
importance in determining tapir detection/non-detection within WCC Jacj Cuisi, but their
ability to predict tapir detection/non-detection within the reserve more reliably than variables
such as distance to roads or agriculture, factors normally found to impact tapir occupancy
rates.
This research demonstrates the conservation value of WCC Jacj Cuisi as a refuge for this
endangered species, and the observation of two juvenile tapirs during the survey period
highlights the continued importance of the land as safe-haven for breeding individuals away
from their main anthropogenic threats of hunting and habitat loss. However, this research also

underlines the potential negative conservation impacts resulting from the unique style of ex-
situ felid management that CIWY undertakes. If tapirs are excluded from, or less likely to

utilise certain areas due to the methods employed for felid management, there may be a risk
of potentially altering the composition of both plant and consumer communities within the
reserve.
We as an organisation are currently exploring several potential options to mitigate or alleviate
these negative effects, so that without impacting the individuals cared for by the organisation,
we are able to better protect wild habitats and the incredible species resident to them such as
the lowland tapir, as well as strengthening CIWY’s position as one of Bolivia’s leading
conservation organisations.

Posted on Oct 01, 2017 by  | Tags: tapirs, Jacj Cuisi, research



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