Record Details

Montenegro, O. L.
The behavior of lowland tapir (Tapirus terrestris) at a natural mineral lick in the Peruvian Amazon
Gainesville, FL
University of Florida
This study investigated the behavior of lowland tapir (Tapirus terrestris) at a natural mineral lick in the Peruvian Amazon. The objectives of the research were to determine the structure of a lowland tapir population that regularly visits a system of clay licks, to study the social and individual behavior of tapirs during their visits, and to characterize the chemical composition of the clay consumed by tapirs, as well as, to explore the significance of clay licks in the tapir ecology. The study was conducted at the Manu Wildlife Center located in northeastern Peruvian Amazon. Lowland tapirs were observed when visiting a large clay lick during the dry season of 1997. Observations were done from an elevated platform located to one side of the lick. Sex and age of tapirs, as well as die1 pattern of visitation to the clay lick, duration of visits and all tapir behaviors, were recorded. Chemical composition of clay at the lick was determined from samples taken from the most used places and compared to samples from outside the clay lick. The studied tapir population had a higher proportion of adult than immature (young and juvenile) animals. Among adults, sex ratio was biased toward females and the opposite was observed among juveniles. Die1 pattern of clay lick use is mainly nocturnal, with maximum visitation rates around midnight. Tapir visits to the clay licks lasted for around half an hour in average, without differences among sex/age classes. Tapirs spent most of their time at the lick in clay and water ingestion. Adults had higher rates of urination than juveniles. It is suggested that urination at the clay lick has a chemical communicative purpose. Direct vocal communication occurred in mother and young interactions, but it was not observed in other social encounters. Individual flight was the most common anti-predator behavior and was displayed at the arrival of other animals, including other tapirs. Clay from the lick had higher concentrations of Na, Ma, Ca and K than control samples. It is suggested that potential mineral deficiencies or imbalances in the tapir diet could be the factors that attract tapirs to clay licks. Also, it is suggested that another possible attraction of tapirs to soil consumption is the clay's buffering action to the toxicity of secondary compounds in the tapir diet. Finally, it is concluded that clay licks are very important components of lowland tapir habitat. Management and conservation plans should have the abundance and distribution of clay licks as important indicators of habitat quality. Further research in pattern of movements and spatial distribution of clay licks, as well as direct assessment of lowland nutrition and geophagy, is suggested.