The coolest animal you know nothing about … and how we can save it | Patrícia Medici

The coolest animal you know nothing about … and how we can save it | Patrícia Medici


This is one of the most amazing animals
on the face of the Earth. This is a tapir. Now this, this is a baby tapir, the cutest animal offspring
in the animal kingdom. (Laughter) By far. There is no competition here. I have dedicated
the past 20 years of my life to the research and conservation
of tapirs in Brazil, and it has been absolutely amazing. But at the moment,
I’ve been thinking really, really hard about the impact of my work. I’ve been questioning myself
about the real contributions I have made for the conservation
of these animals I love so much. Am I being effective in safeguarding their survival? Am I doing enough? I guess the big question here is, am I studying tapirs
and contributing to their conservation, or am I just documenting their extinction? The world is facing
so many different conservation crises. We all know that.
It’s all over the news every day. Tropical forests and other ecosystems
are being destroyed, climate change, so many species
on the brink of extinction: tigers, lions, elephants, rhinos, tapirs. This is the lowland tapir,
the tapir species I work with, the largest terrestrial mammal
of South America. They’re massive. They’re powerful. Adults can weigh up to 300 kilos. That’s half the size of a horse. They’re gorgeous. Tapirs are mostly found
in tropical forests such as the Amazon, and they absolutely need
large patches of habitat in order to find all the resources
they need to reproduce and survive. But their habitat is being destroyed, and they have been hunted out of several
parts of their geographic distribution. And you see, this is
very, very unfortunate because tapirs are extremely important
for the habitats where they are found. They’re herbivores. Fifty percent of their diet
consists of fruit, and when they eat the fruit,
they swallow the seeds, which they disperse throughout
the habitat through their feces. They play this major role
in shaping and maintaining the structure and diversity of the forest, and for that reason, tapirs are known
as gardeners of the forest. Isn’t that amazing? If you think about it, the extinction of tapirs
would seriously affect biodiversity as a whole. I started my tapir work in 1996,
still very young, fresh out of college, and it was a pioneer research
and conservation program. At that point, we had nearly
zero information about tapirs, mostly because they’re
so difficult to study. They’re nocturnal, solitary,
very elusive animals, and we got started getting
very basic data about these animals. But what is it
that a conservationist does? Well, first, we need data. We need field research. We need those long-term datasets
to support conservation action, and I told you tapirs
are very hard to study, so we have to rely
on indirect methods to study them. We have to capture and anesthetize them so that we can install GPS collars
around their necks and follow their movements, which is a technique used by many
other conservationists around the world. And then we can gather information
about how they use space, how they move through the landscape, what are their priority habitats, and so much more. Next, we must disseminate what we learn. We have to educate people about tapirs and how important these animals are. And it’s amazing
how many people around the world do not know what a tapir is. In fact, many people think
this is a tapir. Let me tell you, this is not a tapir. (Laughter) This is a giant anteater. Tapirs do not eat ants. Never. Ever. And then next we have to provide
training, capacity building. It is our responsibility to prepare
the conservationists of the future. We are losing several
conservation battles, and we need more people doing what we do, and they need the skills,
and they need the passion to do that. Ultimately, we conservationists, we must be able to apply our data, to apply our accumulated knowledge to support actual conservation action. Our first tapir program took place in the Atlantic Forest in the eastern part of Brazil, one of the most threatened
biomes in the world. The destruction of the Atlantic Forest began in the early 1500s, when the Portuguese
first arrived in Brazil, beginning European colonization
in the eastern part of South America. This forest was almost completely cleared for timber, agriculture, cattle ranching
and the construction of cities, and today only seven percent
of the Atlantic forest is still left standing. And tapirs are found in very, very small,
isolated, disconnected populations. In the Atlantic Forest, we found out
that tapirs move through open areas of pastureland and agriculture going from one patch of forest
to patch of forest. So our main approach in this region was to use our tapir data
to identify the potential places for the establishment
of wildlife corridors in between those patches of forest, reconnecting the habitat so that tapirs and many other animals
could cross the landscape safely. After 12 years in the Atlantic Forest, in 2008, we expanded our tapir
conservation efforts to the Pantanal in the western part of Brazil near the border with Bolivia and Paraguay. This is the largest continuous
freshwater floodplain in the world, an incredible place and one of the most important strongholds
for lowland tapirs in South America. And working in the Pantanal
has been extremely refreshing because we found large,
healthy tapir populations in the area, and we have been able to study tapirs in the most natural conditions
we’ll ever find, very much free of threats. In the Pantanal, besides the GPS collars,
we are using another technique: camera traps. This camera is equipped
with a movement sensor and it photographs animals
when they walk in front of it. So thanks to these amazing devices, we have been able
to gather precious information about tapir reproduction
and social organization which are very important
pieces of the puzzle when you’re trying to develop
those conservation strategies. And right now, 2015,
we are expanding our work once again to the Brazilian Cerrado, the open grasslands and shrub forests
in the central part of Brazil. Today this region is the very epicenter
of economic development in my country, where natural habitat
and wildlife populations are rapidly being eradicated
by several different threats, including once again cattle ranching, large sugarcane and soybean plantations, poaching, roadkill, just to name a few. And somehow, tapirs are still there, which gives me a lot of hope. But I have to say that starting
this new program in the Cerrado was a bit of a slap in the face. When you drive around and you find dead tapirs
along the highways and signs of tapirs wandering around
in the middle of sugarcane plantations where they shouldn’t be, and you talk to kids and they tell you
that they know how tapir meat tastes because their families poach and eat them, it really breaks your heart. The situation in the Cerrado
made me realize — it gave me the sense of urgency. I am swimming against the tide. It made me realize that despite
two decades of hard work trying to save these animals,
we still have so much work to do if we are to prevent them
from disappearing. We have to find ways
to solve all these problems. We really do, and you know what? We really came to a point
in the conservation world where we have to think out of the box. We’ll have to be a lot more creative
than we are right now. And I told you, roadkill is a big problem
for tapirs in the Cerrado, so we just came up with the idea
of putting reflective stickers on the GPS collars we put on the tapirs. These are the same stickers
used on big trucks to avoid collision. Tapirs cross the highways after dark, so the stickers will hopefully
help drivers see this shining thing crossing the highway, and maybe they will
slow down a little bit. For now, this is just a crazy idea. We don’t know. We’ll see if it will
reduce the amount of tapir roadkill. But the point is, maybe this is
the kind of stuff that needs to be done. And although I’m struggling
with all these questions in my mind right now, I have a pact with tapirs. I know in my heart that tapir conservation is my cause. This is my passion. I am not alone. I have this huge network
of supporters behind me, and there is no way
I’m ever going to stop. I will continue doing this,
most probably for the rest of my life. And I’ll keep doing this
for Patrícia, my namesake, one of the first tapirs we captured
and monitored in the Atlantic Forest many, many years ago; for Rita and her baby Vincent
in the Pantanal. And I’ll keep doing this for Ted,
a baby tapir we captured in December last year
also in the Pantanal. And I will keep doing this for the hundreds of tapirs
that I’ve had the pleasure to meet over the years and the many others I know
I will encounter in the future. These animals deserve to be cared for. They need me. They need us. And you know? We human beings
deserve to live in a world where we can get out there
and see and benefit from not only tapirs but all the other beautiful species, now and in the future. Thank you so much. (Applause)

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84 thoughts on “The coolest animal you know nothing about … and how we can save it | Patrícia Medici

  1. I believe that savings tapirs is very important, as is saving all animals, but I don't think the tapirs enjoy being captured to be studied. Also, I don't think that the tapirs particularly enjoy wearing those GPS collars. But, thanks for educating people, and I hope the conservation efforts are successful.

  2. If we treat them like most of our pigs and keep them incarcerated and fatten them up and eat them then there are a lot of them and that's a good thing. Since the most important thing for an animal is that many other members of their species exist.

  3. Enjoyed the talk. I do not appreciate how the title treats us all as though we were ignorant. I knew of the tapir, not as much as she does, but nontheless I knew of it!

  4. She has good points but I didn't hear any solutions. Parks and reserves seem to be the only way to slow the destruction.

  5. This could have been way longer this was a good speaker, i would like to know more about the way they live and eat and socialize. good work!

  6. I love the intention behind the stickers… but I feel like that will be an issue with other animals, and tapirs' ability to hide intentionally.

  7. I'm all for preserving wildlife, but I don't really see how tapirs would even quality for top 100 coolest animals. There are lesser-known species that are far more fascinating.

  8. they'll be extinct in the next decade. i always see videos like this trying to protect an animal from humans moving in. the fact is, humans ALWAYS move in. there's nothing you can do.

  9. As cool as Tapirs are, they are nowhere as cool as the Galapagos Pink Land Iguana, a reptile discovered in 2009 and still we only have very little information on them.

  10. Patricia Medici's two-decade long work of safeguard Tapirs in the Amazon forests is commendable. We came to know, how these unknown mammals help to maintain the bio-diversity of our planet. We have to appreciate her work, her commitment and if possible, do some help for her to accomplish the mission.

  11. Those stickers on Tapirs… would those stickers be the answer? i think not. Maybe those stickers would increase the chance Tapirs be spotted by predators at night…
    Just saying.

  12. 8:45 LOL those glasses are so cheesy, guy looks like he trying really hard to look stylish but just looks really dorky.

  13. I'm from Brazil, and I think the preservation of this animal it is really important for the future of the biodiversity. The Tapirs are really gardeners! The florets need it. The others animals need it. We need it.

  14. This person is a soldier, fighting for the preservation of biodiversity on Earth – a cause for which we should all be fighting. Inspiring.

  15. Isn't the most effective solution for roads killing animals to build a natural, animal crossing landway that connects the two sides so all animals can cross safely all the time? I thought that was a widely accepted practice now for effective, roadkill minimization?

  16. I can only keep quiet about things because it does not take very long for some animal, insect or plant to receive a Pest Status.  I see rats, roaches and lizards at night while I'm doing my own thing like smoking.  If I ever say some tree looks pretty and the next thing is that 'it is not symmetric' so it gets cut down.  don't say anything unless it's people so they or that person gets Pest Status.   shouldn't even made this video, now people will find some way to pest them.

  17. So I watched the whole video… and I may have missed it, but why did the woman say she was doing this? Do tapirs urine cure cancer and HIV at the same time? she did call them "cute".

    If she really want's to save this animal, I mean this legitly .. not as sarcasm, but maybe she should open up a tapir farm down in Brazil or where ever she wants.. buy a massive amount of land.. that wouldn't be used for agriculture, but is as close to the tapirs natural environment as possible.. and then just study and rear the animals till she's blue in the face.

    What she is doing.. is not wrong, but it may be fruitless. … because like she said quote "I"m swimming against the tide".. she said people were eating the tapirs because they taste delicious.. "Poaching" … so she should get into the business of farming, and selling cheap tapir meat… that would put her in a strong position to really do something about this problem as opposed to the angle shes tackling it from. And since Tapirs seem to be the 4×4 of the animal kingdom.. they don't need land cleared for them.

    Good luck whatever the case.

  18. We must respect the local culture, including their traditional food. The Indians eat tapirs forever and it never brought any ecological imbalance.

  19. Thanks for this – shared on World Tapir Day and hope to see an updated version sometime soon too. Great talk and wonderful quirky creature.

  20. Human Gardners are also becoming extinct, so people out there, make gardening as your hobby, grow your own food, protect animals and the environment.

  21. She looks like that animal the taper that's why she protects it. It is not cute it is hideous strange creature

  22. excelente, en argentina tenemos las poblaciones mas australes de tapir. y en nuestro pais estan en grave peligro de sufrir extincion local. Todos los que colaboramos con la conservacion, sentimos lo que dijo patricia, nos duele en el corazon cuando las personas ignoran las especies y ademas las depredan.

    Fuerza patricia!

  23. I get you …we are loosing Malayan Tapir every year ..they get hit by vehicles on the highway..I m dedicating my message to the society through my art and still am…we re having an art exhibition in April 2019. ..

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