Anne: What led you to creating The Andean Tapir Fund? To me the Mountain Tapir resembles a cross between a bear and possibly a mule, or even an elephant? They are so different from the animals with which I am familiar. Would you give us a summary of their heritage?
Craig: I created the Andean Tapir Fund in order to save the endangered Mountain, or Andean, Tapir of the northern Andes in its wild habitat – the Andean forest and paramo, or moorland above the tree line. It is estimated that there are only ca. 2,000 of these left in ca. 20 regions falling between northern Peru, passing through Ecuador and on into Colombia. My efforts and those of my organization have helped save hundreds of thousands of acres from development by agriculture and mining, etc., most recently a 330,000 acre reserve is in the process of being declared in Northern Peru due in large part to our efforts, which included extensive species lists and a description of this center of species endemism called the Huancabamba Depression. This is at the southernmost extent of the Mountain Tapir’s distribution.
The Mountain Tapir is in the same order as the horse and the rhino, namely Perissodactyla, or the odd-toed ungulates, or hoofed grazers. Tapirs resemble the early ancestors of horses and rhinos, dating back over 50-million years, yet they have continued to advance in their own special way, evolving a prehensile proboscis that is the same type of organ as an elephant’s trunk. With this tapirs squirt water, reach high leaves and fruits, break branches, caress each other, take baths, shoo away biting insects, and do all sorts of behaviors, including whistling shrilly! They are considered living fossils by some paleontologists and originated right here in North America as all major branches of the horse family and the modern horse itself also did. As my published investigations have shown, they disburse the intact seeds of many plant species, which germinate far and wide in the soils made fertile by their feces. Horses and burros do the same as do rhinos. This is on account of their being post-gastric digesters. They feed and fertilize the ecosystem, build the humus component of soils, and to a much greater degree than is the case with ruminant digesters, basically all the other large mammal grazers in North America.
Anne: I’m glad to see you have made headway in gaining the support of the people of Peru against poachers and traffickers of the mountain tapirs. It looks as if you were successful in the pending sanctuary for them, and donations can be made easily right on your website. How long have you been involved in South American ecological studies?
Craig: I have been involved in ecological investigations and conservation efforts in South America since 1977 when I served in the Peace Corps in the nation of Colombia as a wildlife ecologist. I began my intensive doctoral study of the Mountain Tapir in 1989 in Sangay National Park, Ecuador. I was the first wildlife ecologist ever to have captured, radio collared, and telemetrically tracked this elusive and rugged survivor of the ages. Yes, as mentioned earlier, a new reserve is being declared in the Piuran Cordillera of Northern Peru and I am anxious to launch this vigorously. I hope that more funds can be gathered to start this off right, with a big publicity campaign and ecological studies, the establishment of monuments delineating the boundaries, with proper enforcement and ecotourism.
Here Reserve Design will prove key to our long-term success, just as it will in the case of the wild horses and burros here in the U.S. By the way, I have a proposal to flesh out Reserve Design for America’s Wild Horses and Burros, but also need support to do a thorough professional job on this and put it into effect throughout our country.
Anne: If the horrible slaughtering of our horses, burros and mules continues, what is the prognosis of the North American wilderness? What are the long-term and adverse effects if they are systematically exterminated?
Craig: The ongoing slaughter of equids in America is a terrible disgrace for all three nations involved: U.S., Canada, and Mexico. In the case of the wild equids, blind and ignorant people are removing important returned native species. These are animals that restore the ecosystem, build its soils, disperse its seeds for germination and increase the biodiversity of both plants and animals. It is so wrong that they are being lied about and targeted for elimination. I expose this evil in my book The Wild Horse Conspiracy, but go on to tell what must happen to rectify this unacceptable situation.
It is a torture and cruel murder of highly evolved, noble presences that have been roaming our lands from most ancient times. Horses count among the most deeply rooted mammal groups in North America. For government officials to perpetuate this crime in order to appease some of the most obstinate and slobbish ranchers and big game hunters is a grievous sin and carries with it dire consequences. For this reason, I have made my book a very positive one that reveals all that is good and right about restoring the horses and burros to their natural, free-living place and role here in North America and just exactly what can be done to accomplish this life-saving goal.
People have to be willing to change, to accept a new and better way of life. They must be willing to share the land and freedom and to adjust their lifestyle in order to restore the enhanced wild-horse/burro-containing ecosystem that our planet Earth so desperately needs today, e.g. to counter Global Warming and the much too artificial and toxic environment technocrats are creating today.
Anne: Knowing you have been thinking about this for years,what is your belief as to the reasons so many of these wild horses are being displaced? Who do you believe is responsible for their sad removals and ultimate murders, and what do you think should be done about it?
Craig: The wild horses and burros are being eliminated because they reveal the wrongness of the crusty old lifestyles and attitudes that are based on crass domination. These are ruining life on Earth! Too many people are acting as blind adherents of outmoded traditions. They are loath to accept responsibility to adopt changes in their values and life styles, so as to save life on Earth. They are refusing to learn important lessons from the past and are only digging in their heels.
Much of this we see today in the adulation of the cowboy lifestyle and the mockery of progressive lifestyles that seek to live in harmony with Nature, such as those that involve vegetarianism or naturally harmonious, self-sustaining lifestyles. This must change soon or it will be too late for life on Earth! Livestock emission of methane and other heat-trapping gases are even more deadly to the planet than automobile emissions. It is simply wrong how most people are living today, as they have turned their back on the rest of life, with whom they share this lovely planet Earth.
It seems that they have become intentionally oblivious to all that is most important for the survival and well-being of the whole complex of interrelated life on Earth, upon which they themselves depend for survival – whether they realize this or not. Horses, etc., are basically wild in nature but too many people, out of selfishness, only regard them as slaves of mankind. This is quite wrong and is contrary to life’s great truth and interrelatedness, which all true religion and spirituality honor. Of this crucial subject I treat in my last “Higher Thoughts” chapter.
Again, we must decrease or eliminate livestock grazing and other ecosystem-disrupting activities and let the horses, etc., naturally fill their niche and establish their own internal harmony. We must learn to live with and not against this. This is our challenge concerning wild horses in the wild; and it is imperative that we do not ignore this vital challenge. Meeting it correctly will open up a whole new gateway into a more brilliant and life-renewing tomorrow.
Anne: I do see where you brilliantly wrote your “Proposal for Wild Horse/Burro Reserve Design as a Solution to Present Crisis”, back in June of 2010. Your very practical and logical minded presentation was straightforward in your appeal to the BLM. Craig, I wish I could have dined with you and Brandi and Pennell. The last thought I now contemplate before going to sleep at night, is how can we get the Senate Committee to listen to our please? How can we make the Pro Slaughter Industry agree to change, because short of Bill S.1176’s getting passed and enforced (it seems likely that bill keeps getting shuffled under mounds of papers), we need to make the profiteers want to CHANGE? We must take steps in order to Abolish Horse Slaughter and trafficking them out of our country, halt inhumane Factory Farming and build a respect for all animals. We must demand of the people who do consume their flesh that their demands are no longer going to be met using our horses. These slaughters must stop!
Craig: My advice as to how we can get the Senate Committee to listen and to pass the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, H.R. 2966 & S. 1176, is to continue to expose the evils associated with horse slaughter.
Expose how people, including BLM and USFS officials, are making obscene quantities of money by setting the innocent horses and burros up for this dismal fate. I discuss this in graphic terms in my book “Higher Thoughts” Chapter 7. We must not flag but must persist and hone our skills as we learn from past experience and endeavors. We know we have the greater truth and justice on our side and that we will, thus, prevail over the greater course of time. John Holland presented some excellent facts and figures right after my brief presentation at the Conference.
These should be used as well as the potent results of Animals’ Angels investigations. Most of all we must stop condoning attitudes and values and lifestyles that perpetuate horse abuse, slavery, and slaughter by showing people a better way of life based on higher values and more enlightened attitudes and goals. This we can do through our own personal example of how to live and what to strive for. Our personal virtue shall shine through the darkness and attract others to follow suit. Together as a society we can and will transform, while at the same time restoring the all-inclusive life community. This can be done. This MUST be done. All of Life depends upon our doing so. And each one of us has a unique and vital, in fact, an indispensable role to play here. Lastly, I wrote about why horse slaughter is so inherently cruel, and about BLM and USFS’ involvement with this, in my book on pages 98, 114, 220-224.
I wish you could have dined with us too, Anne! Perhaps we’ll meet someday. I am glad of this opportunity to share my views on this important subject. Together we can make a big positive difference for the horses and the lives they lead! Animals’ Angels keep up your very fine and vitally important work! Merci beaucoup.
Thank you Craig for your time in providing our readers with your vast knowledge on these subjects. Your book is proof of how important these animals are to our ecology, educating us with scientific facts and reasons why our equine should stay on the land where they have roamed for centuries. It is especially thoughtful of you to be so generous in sharing your years of research and I am also looking forward to listening to the recording of your radio interview and getting a copy of your book. I wish I could have dined with you and Brandi and Pennell!
- Dinner With Craig C. Downer (animalsangelsblog.wordpress.com)
- Update: Wild Horse & Burro Advocate Letters Reach President Obama via Congressman Jim Moran (rtfitchauthor.com)
- Urgent: Stop the Twin Peaks Wild Horse & Burro Removal (rtfitchauthor.com)
- Horse Advocates Schedule Press Conference in Salt Lake City, October 29, 2012 (wdneoh.wordpress.com)