Tayja-Saruta Project

To promote the survival of lowland tapirs in Ecuador both in situ and ex situ


The lowland tapir,Tapirus terrestris, has been categorized as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List. Unsustainable hunting for meat and body parts with alleged medicinal properties is the main threat. Habitat loss and fragmentation also play a significant role in the species decline. A Population and Habitat Viability Asessment Workshop was therefore organised in 2007 by the Tapir Specialist Group of IUCN. This workshop was supported by WAZA and a number of WAZA members, including the Osnabrück Zoo.

For the indigenous inhabitants of the Sarayacu Community in the Ecuadorian Province of Pastaza, the lowland tapir used to be of high value for subsistence and monetary income and has consequently been overharvested. The result was a dramatic decline in the number of tapirs. The Sarayacu people were aware and concerned about the species negative evolution and therefore developed together with Anders Siren (Department of Rural Development and Agroecology Upsala / Doctoral thesis 2004: Changing Interactions between Humans and Nature in Sarayaku, Ecuadorian Amazon) a project for sustainable management of Amazonian fauna.

The project aims at finding alternatives to unsustainable wildlife use, to achieve conservation of all native species and to guarantee the co-existence of nature and people.

To achieve this goal, members of the community established under the direction of the project coordinator, Sr. José Machoa, three wildlife refuges to effectively protect the animals from hunting. Tapir hunt is banned also outside the wildlife refuges. Two forest guards are in charge of every refuge. They control the boundaries and evaluate the livestock. Fishponds and poultry houses were built for developing alternative sources of protein and monetary income. A further point of the project is the reintroduction of captive held wild born tapirs, following the IUCN Guidelines for Reintroductions. The animals are released and observed at a tapir feeding station.


Sr. José Machoa held a number of lectures and organised workshops for inhabitants of Sarayacu, teachers, students and neighbouring communities.

The Osnabrück Zoo accompanies the project with education projects, i.e. with a permanent exhibition. Other temporary exhibitions pointed out the dramatic results of oil production in Ecuador ("Energie Dschungel" from the VAMOS foundation  in 2005) or showed the correlation between consumption practices and the destruction of the primary forest ("Abenteuer Regenwald" from Angelika Hofer in 2006). Moreover, students driv a "Tapir-Taxi" every Sunday. At this interactive information board visitors can get knowledge about biology and ecology of the tapir but also about the project. One goal is to encourage people to use recycled paper.

WAZA Conservation Project 07008 is accompanied and supported by the Osnabrück Zoo (Gemany) and supported by the Axel & Kirsten Ziemek Foundation Pro Kreatur. 


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