Friday, May 18, 2012

The Tapir I Probably Wasn't Going To See

When I signed up for GVI last November, I had in mind a list of cool species I’d love to see while volunteering in Costa Rica. Granted this was a pretty generic list – sea turtles, monkeys, a jaguar. I admittedly didn’t realize the variety of wildlife I would soon be immersed in come January. After arriving, I quickly became aware of the many things I could encounter on surveys in the Tortuguero National Park.

 My list has since gone through rounds of edits. It grows as I learn and see more. I have been able to check off some impressive sightings.

·Worked a nesting Leatherback Sea Turtle – check
·Seen a jaguar in close proximity – check
·Yelled at by all three species of monkeys found in this region – check

While I’ve made a great dent in my growing list, there remained species that I surrendered to being very unlikely to see. This especially became the case as my extended run as a volunteer neared its end (setting a 20 week record). Costa Rica’s largest land mammal, Baird’s Tapir was one of these “probably wasn’t going to see” animals for me. 

One recent morning on my way to survey our furthest trail, there it was: No mistaking it, less than 20 meters ahead a Baird’s Tapir quickly moving forward. Large and stocky, it ran up the trail until it disappeared around a bend. In disbelief, I looked at the survey team and in a loud whisper exclaimed “Tapiiir!”. With this exciting news to bring back to base, jealousy ensued, but mainly excitement for us that we had seen such an amazing and endangered creature.

Tapir caught by camera traps the same day

Staring in shock at the butt end of a Baird’s Tapir running away from me – check

-Robyn, 20-week volunteer