The ecology of the lowland tapir in Madre de Dios, Peru: Using new technologies to study large rainforest mammals
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The objectives of my research were twofold: 1) to evaluate new technologies (camera traps and a new type of GPS collar) for studying large mammals in tropical forests, and 2) to study the ecology of the lowland tapir (Tapirus terrestris) in the Peruvian Amazon. Camera traps proved to be an efficient tool for mammal inventories in tropical forests. They recorded 24 out of 28 terrestrial medium and large sized mammal species with a survey effort of 2340 camera days. Camera traps were also able to reveal important information on habitat use, activity patterns and the use of mineral licks for five Amazonian ungulate species. There was a high spatial overlap between all the species with the grey brocket deer being the only species that was restricted to terra firme forest. White-lipped peccaries, tapirs and red brocket deer frequently used mineral licks, whereas collared peccaries and grey brocket deer were hardly ever observed at licks. A new type of GPS collar (TrackTag) tested in this study performed well under the dense canopy of a tropical forest. Position success rates of 87% for stationary collars and 48% for collars placed on tapirs were comparable to data obtained with GPS collars in temperate forests. The mean location error for stationary collars inside the forest was 28.9 m and the 95% error was 76.8 m. GPS collars placed on six tapirs for seven to 182 days showed home range sizes of 102 to 386 hectares. Tapirs were mainly nocturnal and areas used for foraging during the night differed from resting sites used during the day. Tapirs could walk up to 10 km to visit a mineral lick. Visits were irregular at intervals of a few days up to 36 days. The analysis of 135 tapir dung samples showed that tapirs ingest seeds of over 120 plant species. Seeds were found throughout the year but monthly species diversity was related to fruit availability. The size distribution of ingested seeds was related to availability. Most seeds were less then 10 mm wide, but seeds up to 25 mm were found. Both camera traps and TrackTag GPS collars greatly increased the possibilities for studying large rainforest mammals. The two technologies collect complementary information and each one is suited for a different set of questions.
Tobler, Mathias Werner (2008). The ecology of the lowland tapir in Madre de Dios, Peru: Using new technologies to study large rainforest mammals. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from