To Track a Tapir
Brazilian tapir, Tapirus terrestris, on land in Brazil

To Track a Tapir


The dry forests and savannahs of the Paraguayan Chaco encompass a large swathe of South America. Like the Amazon, this area is home to a complex and diverse ecosystem. And like the Amazon, this species-rich region is vulnerable to the effects of human development and activities, including rapid deforestation.


That’s why nationally recognized veterinarian Dr. Don Neiffer and a team of collaborators have centered research projects in the area, including the Conservation Nation-funded, two-year project to track and study Lowland tapirs, which began this summer.


Scientists plan to outfit at least five individuals with GPS tracking collars, two of which were funded by Conservation Nation. The data collected by these trackers will help establish where these animals go and why. This will make it possible for conservationists to work with local communities in managing both protected and private lands for many species, tapirs included, which move freely through regions currently segmented by fencing and farming.


It’s no surprise that climate change has made expeditions more difficult. Dr. Neiffer’s first trip to the area this past July was planned to align with the Chaco’s dry season; the reality was the opposite—unseasonable and sometimes heavy rains persisted for many days prior to the team’s arrival, making it less likely the team would catch a wild tapir. That’s because the animals did not need to concentrate around isolated water holes, which are the only source of water for tapirs during the dry season.


Camera traps strategically positioned throughout the countryside produced both nighttime and daytime images of tapirs, moving through an area just as researchers inconveniently had set up capture blinds somewhere else.


In one bit of footage, a tapir slobbers on the camera trap lens before stomping away into the brush. This recording of the tapir, combined with clips of other species going about their daily lives, serves as an invaluable clue as the project progresses. Pumas, capybaras, giant anteaters and more have been filmed, providing insight into both animals’ movements and the area’s great biodiversity.


Dr. Neiffer plans a return trip in August or September of 2020. Until then, other groups from the research team will take turns on site through November using large-scale box traps installed in an attempt to safely catch wild tapirs as they pass through the area.


Stay tuned for more updates.



Tapirs, peccaries, capybaras, pumas and anteaters were captured on film.


Continue Reading
An Elephant Feat
tusker in aggressive mode

An Elephant Feat


13,000 pounds balanced on 18 pachyderm toes.


This sums up just one challenge faced by Asian elephants as they move their huge bodies, sometimes across vast distances, and with all that weight bearing down almost exclusively on their toes. Not only do these intelligent and fascinating creatures have to deal with deforestation and poachers, but also painful inflammation that results from their immense size, as well. Asian elephants can even die from foot inflammation, should it remain untreated.


This past year, Conservation Nation “footed the bill” for a high-tech, new thermography camera to study Asian elephants’ feet as part of ongoing pachyderm research.


With this device in her scientific arsenal, esteemed Smithsonian scientist Dr. Janine Brown recently travelled to Thailand, where she scanned 10-20 elephants for painful inflammation. The technology is truly groundbreaking—the device can scan from great distances, without bothering the animal or requiring researchers to sedate the patient for an accurate reading. The thermography scanner gives researchers real insight into the health problems of pachyderms living in very different situations, and identifies points of inflammation not evident to the naked eye.



The thermography device scans a pachyderm patient.


Another project will investigate how much weight an elephant can carry without causing skeletal or joint problems. Sensors are taped to limbs and a computerized gait assessment is made, followed by thermal scans to assess heat build-up. Preliminary data suggest elephants are capable of carrying at least 10 percent of their body weight (about 250 kilograms for a normal size elephant!) with little observable effects.


This is only the beginning of Dr. Brown’s research. She already is planning a second trip to the region this fall.  The thermography camera also is just beginning its work; with this technology, Dr. Brown expects to amass more data with collaborators, potentially scanning hundreds of elephants in Thailand, and possibly nearby Lau, as well.


Stay tuned for more updates!


Dr. Janine Brown preparing a patient for a test.


Thermal image of an injury resulting in inflammation, not evident to the eye.


Continue Reading
First Set of Meadowlarks Take Flight
One small GPS transmitter by man; one giant leap in conservation for birdkind.

First Set of Meadowlarks Take Flight


One small GPS transmitter by man; one giant leap in conservation for birdkind.


Earlier this summer, Conservation Nation began purchasing tiny high-tech GPS tracking devices to outfit eastern meadowlarks—the transmitters are smaller than a dime and weigh less than four grams, so they won’t hinder birds in flight. Thanks to these bits of avian-friendly tech, Smithsonian researchers will soon know the path of a depleting population of songbirds as they migrate up and down the East Coast. Tagged eastern meadowlarks have taken flight, and researchers await their first round of data this month.


As a species known to announce spring’s arrival, the meadowlark’s song has long been a welcome sound, a sign winter is finally over. And in just eight days, a single female meadowlark can create a tightly wound nest for its pink-speckled eggs. But this songbird, once considered a common sight in Appalachian communities and other regions of North America, has declined rapidly, with its population dropping 90 percent in the past four decades.


A meadowlark nest discovered in the species’ grassland habitat.


“When meadowlarks and other key grassland species decline, that is a sign their ecosystems—which we humans share—are also in trouble. Think of them as the canary in the coalmine, for our region’s working grasslands,” said Virginia Working Landscapes program director Dr. Amy Johnson.


The Virginia Working Landscapes program has made this project possible; this group of private landowners are generously letting researchers, like Dr. Johnson, conduct conservation projects on their properties.


Also integral to the project are collaborators at the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center and the Smithsonian’s Movement of Life initiative.


With Conservation Nation’s continued support, scientists will soon have the information they need to seek protections for these areas. Once grassland areas are preserved, these efforts in turn will benefit a diverse range of interconnected species who rely on the same habitats to survive.


Look for more updates as the birds journey south!



Continue Reading

On your mark. Get set. Save animals!

You’re fast. You’re fierce. You want to help rhinos and other endangered animals all over the globe. Here are some ways you can participate in The Fast & the Fierce 5K, sponsored by Aegis Project Controls. Whether you attend the event on September 14 or participate virtually on your own, you can make a difference and help wildlife.


Run solo. Create your own fundraiser and fundraising webpage. Aim high and set a goal. If 500 people each raise $500, Conservation Nation would earn $500,000 for rhinos and animals in the wild. 



Lead a herd. Fundraise with friends or family. Each member will create their own personal fundraising page, and a team page will be created so you can see the impact you’re having together!


Join a team. Has someone you know already named a team? Join it and be part of the impact! You’ll get your own fundraising page and see your successes reported on the team page.



Support a participant. Know a person, pet or team who are participating? Donate to their campaign. Show up and cheer them on!


Be an ambassador. Use your voice to amplify the call to help rhinos and other animals. Get your network to migrate to Freedom Plaza on 9/14.


Be a social butterfly. Spread the word about the 5K by amplifying the message on your social media channels. Use #fastfierce5K to find and share posts.



Still not registered? What are you waiting for?

Sign up now!

Continue Reading