Research Consortium for Belizean Studies

Reducing Vehicle Collisions With the Central American Tapir in Central Belize District, Belize

Celso Poot, The Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center, Central America
Anthony P. Clevenger


The Central American tapir Tapirus bairdii is the national animal of Belize. Accidents from vehicle collisions pose a new threat to the species. A total of 14 tapir deaths were recorded from June 2008 through December 2012 in Central Belize District. Two areas were identified as hot spots for tapir-vehicle collisions (TVCs), and spot-speed surveys revealed speeding to be common in that area. More than 47% of the vehicles were traveling above the prescribed speed limit, and another 28% were driving at speeds of 100 kph or faster. In an effort to reduce speed and the risk of TVCs, we deployed two sets of reflective wildlife crossing signs over a 6-km stretch of road. This was followed by an awareness campaign alerting drivers of tapirs’ presence in the area. We saw a significant reduction in speed immediately after the installation of the warning signs, and no TVCs were recorded for the next 10 months. Consequently, camera-trapping and track surveys were undertaken to confirm the species continued presence in the immediate area. Over the next 2 years, only two collisions were recorded along the same stretch of road.