Chalukian, Silvia C;de Bustos, M Soledad;Lizárraga, R Leonidas
Diet of lowland tapir (Tapirus terrestris) in El Rey National Park, Salta, Argentina.
Animals;Argentina;Conservation of Natural Resources;Conservation of Natural Resources: methods;Conservation of Natural Resources: statistics & nu;Diet;Feces;Feces: chemistry;Fruit;Perissodactyla;Perissodactyla: physiology;Species Specificity;Statistics, Nonparametric
Lowland tapir (Tapirus terrestris) is the largest herbivore in the Neotropics and, in Argentina, it inhabits a variety of habitats from 100 to 2100 m asl. Lowland tapirs importantly influence their habitat structure because they are selective browsers, seed predators and long-distance seed dispersers. However, increased knowledge of tapir ecology is necessary to support the conservation and management of the species in natural and human-modified environments. Between Jun 2002 and Dec 2008 we assessed the tapir's diet in El Rey National Park, Salta, northwestern Argentina. We collected fresh feces and recorded browsing signs, and we recorded direct observations of tapirs while they were feeding. We analyzed 88 feces samples that had been dried and subsequently weighed. Feces were dominated by fibers and leaves (84.09%), while fruit parts represented a small proportion of the weight (15.91%). During the dry months, a greater percentage of seeds were found in the feces, mainly due to the availability of 3 species of Fabaceae fruits. We recorded a total of 57 plant species from 26 families. Tapirs are adapted to extreme habitats, switching their diet from frugivory to herbivory when fruits are scarce. Considering this, forest remnants and even secondary growth fields should be protected from deforestation.