In the last eight years, 24 tapirs have been hit by cars in a single 32km strip along the Panamerican Highway (Route 2) in the Northwestern region of Talamanca Mountain Range. This region is known for being part of the largest protected area complex in Costa Rica, and home to a vast biodiversity.
The Nai Conservation Team started a research project initially funded by ZSL’s EDGE of Existence to assess the problem and look for evidence-based solutions. The projects main objective was to model Habitat Use using fine-scale covariates and assess the relationship between road kills and road architecture.
We found that Tapir’s habitat use was higher when inside protected areas and tapirs do not appear to change their habitat use near roads, meaning that their frequent use of forests along roads may make them more susceptible to collisions with cars. We also found a correlation between high tapir habitat use areas and historical road-kills. Additionally, our data showed that most road-kills happened in straight segments of the road where the forest is less than 5m away from the asphalt.
Our findings were valuable for road development planning, especially to optimize the site selection of mitigation actions and predicting how this species will use the habitat when is fragmented by roads. Based on the study and in collaboration with government agencies (MOPT-PROGAS, MINAE-SINAC, academy (UCR-EB), and local communities, eight Tapir Crossing Signs were placed along the 32km strip where 24 Tapirs have been hit by cars and are now under constant monitoring.
In the Tapir Crossing Sign placing official activity, our biologist Esteban Brenes-Mora, Mrs. Patricia Madrigal (Vice-Minister of Environment), Mr. Jesus Zamora (Coordinator of MOPT-PROGAS), Eladio Salazar (Local Conservationist) and Maria Elena Fournier (CVAVS), shared some words about the importance of having interinstitutional efforts to mitigate the threats that Costa Rican wildlife is facing.
We know that signs won’t do all the work, that’s why we also started a communication campaign called #NOSOBRANDANTAS (“There are no spare tapirs”, inspired in an old campaign made by the government in the 90s to invite drivers to have better behaviors to prevent kids getting hit by cars) and keep on going with our conservation action in the area.