“A large animal needs a large area.
If you protect that area, you’re also protecting
thousands of other plants and animals.”

            ~ George Schaller

An initiative of Sacha Huagra Foundation

Our mission is to prevent the extinction of the mountain tapir doing research, education and promoting sustainable community development.

The Mountain Tapir

Tapirus pinchaque, its scientific name refers to its mysterious and elusive nature, like a ghost of the night.

The IUCN estimates a population of only 2500 individuals for the mountain tapir and declining. This species requires the most urgent contributions from tapir advocates around the world!

The founder

Sergio Sandoval in 2020 with the Puracé volcanic massif in the background.

Sergio Sandoval is a colombian biologist who created the Mountain Tapir Forever initiative in 2017, after working with Huellas del Macizo association in the municipality of San Agustín, in the southern Andes of Colombia, where an important mountain tapir population exists. Sergio began his work with this species in 2001, after participating in the first Tapir Symposium in San Jose Costa Rica. He led a mountain tapir project in Puracé National Park in 2004 with the support of Los Angeles Zoo and Cali Zoo. He later became part of the Tapir Preservation Fund (TPF) of which he was vice-president between 2008 and 2016. Created by Sheryl Todd in 1996, TPF was the pioneer organization focused on tapir conservation. In 2024 Sergio and Michiel van Noppen established Sacha Huagra Foundation, the first non-profit organization focused on mountain tapir conservation. 

Our Work

It is estimated that the biodiversity of the Andean region is even higher than that of the Amazon region. Mountain tapirs contribute to the regeneration of the Andean forest acting as seed dispersers.

We carry out research in the field of landscape ecology to identify the population cores of the species and their dispersal corridors. With this information we define strategies for the management of key areas for its conservation.

Where do mountain tapirs live?

Preliminary map of mountain tapir distribution. The species is endemic to the northern Andes, in western South America.

Mountain tapirs inhabit the mountains of the northern Andes from 2000 meters above sea level. They are found in northern Peru from about 6º south latitude, the eastern Andes of Ecuador and the central and eastern Andes of Colombia to about 5º north latitude. The main ecosystems they occupy are the Andean forests and paramos (moorlands).

One of our projects is focused on updating the distribution map for the species. We use satellite images to map the potential distribution of the species, also using niche modelling. Once we have the potential distribution map. we’ll begin field expeditions to confirm its presence in the potential areas identified.

To know the current distribution of the species in detail is crucial to plan a conservation strategy focused on maintaining the connectivity between populations.

Population parameter estimation

Camera traps are essential tools to estimate mountain tapir population parameters. Individual identification is required for density, but not necessary when estimating occupancy or while using alternative density  estimation methods.

We implement field methods that allow us to estimate population parameters that serve as indicators of the achievement of our management objectives, oriented to revert the decreasing population trends of the mountain tapir.

Organic garden in the andes

Organic agriculture is one of the alternatives for local communities because while it contributes to food security, it also contributes to soil and water protection.

We believe that mountain tapir conservation should be linked to the well-being of the local communities. Through our actions we seek to contribute to a change of perception about the role of the tapir as a generator of opportunities for the human communities that coexist with the species.

The traditional monocultures established in the limits of the tapir habitat represent a threat to the species since they lead to intensive timber extraction and also contaminate the water and soils with chemical compounds dangerous not only for human health, but also for wildlife. Our proposal is organic agriculture that does not use chemicals and produces healthier food.

What has been done so far?

Although we have been working for seven years collecting data with camera traps, in 2023 we developed a pilot project to engage communities through community development, education and citizen science.


You can join a field expedition to learn more about the situation of the mountain tapir in Colombia, its threats and possible solutions to overcome them.

How can you support us?

The sustainability of our project depends on the donations we receive either from individuals or from organizations with grant programs for conservation projects.

People who wish to make financial contributions to our project can do so through our PayPal account (, where they can also make monthly contributions and become our patrons. Our main goal is to develop a long-term conservation project for the mountain tapir, so we need to have a group of recurring donors who support us regularly.

You can also join the Mountain Tapir Club  to allow us to do continuous work throughout the year.


Do you have questions, comments or criticisms about this initiative? Do you want to join our partners or volunteer? Leave us a message in our WhatsApp button on the right, we will get back to you soon!

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