Feb 1

We’ve asked conservation organisations around the world to nominate a species that they believe to be overlooked, underappreciated and unloved, and tell us why they think that they deserve a fair share of the limelight, this Valentine’s Day.

Each nominee’s story is featured on the Arkive blog with information on the species, what makes them so special, the conservation organisation that nominated them and how they are working to save them from extinction.

Click the ‘unloved species’ tag above to see all of the nominations and their blogs.

Once you have perused the blogs you can vote for your favourite to help get them into the top ten unloved species and get them the recognition that they truly deserve! Share your favourite with others using the #LoveSpecies hashtag on Twitter and Facebook and tell them why they should vote for them too. Voting closes on February 14th at 23:59 PST (07:59 GMT).

Join us and our conservation partners in celebrating and raising awareness for some of the world’s most unloved species this Valentine’s Day!

Species: Lowland tapir

Nominated by: IUCN Tapir Specialist Group

VulnerableConservation status:

Why do you love it? Tapirs are widely recognised as umbrella species (species with large area requirements, which if given sufficient protected habitat area, will bring many other species under protection). Meeting the needs of an umbrella species provides protection for the other species with which it co-occurs and the wild lands on which they all depend. In addition, tapirs are landscape species (species that occupy large home ranges often extending beyond protected area boundaries, which require a diversity of ecosystem types and have a significant impact on the structure, productivity and resilience of ecosystems). The movements of landscape species can functionally link different habitat types within a given landscape. The elimination of a landscape species may undermine these functional links and lead to cascading changes in ecological communities or even the loss of the ecosystem functions critical to the persistence of other species, communities, and the larger landscape itself.

Tapirs play a critical role in shaping the structure and maintaining the functioning of ecosystems, mostly through seed dispersal and browsing, and thus have been recognised as ecological engineers or gardeners of the forest. Tapir population declines and local extinctions can seriously affect biodiversity.

What are the threats to the lowland tapir? The Lowland Tapir Action Plan published by the IUCN/SSC Tapir Specialist Group in 2007 identified habitat destruction and fragmentation with resulting population isolation and hunting as the main factors behind the decline of lowland tapir populations. Other threats include road-kill, infectious diseases, agri-business (soybean, sugar cane), eucalyptus plantations, forest fires, and pollution of water bodies by pesticides among others.

Due to their individualistic lifestyle, low reproduction rate, long generation time, and low population density lowland tapirs do not achieve a high local abundance, which makes them highly susceptible to threats. Populations show rapid decline when impacted. In addition, large parts of the lowland tapir populations live outside the boundaries of legally protected areas, which also hinders their protection.

What are you doing to save it? The Lowland Tapir Conservation Initiative is a nation-wide, long-term research and conservation effort in Brazil, which uses tapirs as ambassadors for conservation, applying research data to substantiate habitat conservation and protection, environmental education, outreach and awareness, training and capacity-building, and scientific tourism initiatives.

The LTCI believes that only long-term, multidisciplinary scientific research will provide the foundation for the design of solid, realistic, effective conservation actions for tapirs and their remaining habitats. The overall goal of the LTCI is to have tapir research and conservation programs being carried out in all four Brazilian biomes where lowland tapirs are found – Atlantic Forest, Pantanal, Cerrado and Amazon – and biome-based Tapir Action Plans developed and implemented.

Watch Pati Medici’s TED talk about tapirs (co-ordinator of the LTCI project)

Find out more about the work of the IUCN Tapir Specialist Group

Discover more tapir species on Arkive