National Parks influence habitat use of lowland tapirs in adjacent private lands in the Southern Yungas of Argentina

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Protected areas are cornerstones of conservation efforts worldwide. However, protected areas do not act in isolation because they are connected with surrounding, unprotected lands. Few studies have evaluated the effects of protected areas on wildlife populations inhabiting private lands in the surrounding landscapes. The lowland tapir Tapirus terrestris is the largest terrestrial mammal of the Neotropics and is categorized as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. It is necessary to understand the influence of landscape characteristics on the tapir’s habitat use to enable effective conservation management for this species. Our objectives were to () determine the potential distribution of the lowland tapir’s habitat in the Southern Yungas of Argentina, and () evaluate the role of protected areas and other covariates on tapir habitat use in adjacent private lands. We used records of lowland tapirs to model the species’ potential distribution and determined habitat use with occupancy modelling. Based on the covariates found to be significant in our models, we constructed predictive maps of probability of habitat use and assessed the area of potential habitat remaining for the species. Probability of habitat use was higher in the vicinity of two national parks and small households than further away from them. We found that in % of the lowland tapir’s potential distribution the probability of habitat use is high (..). These areas are near the three national parks in the study area. The probability of detecting lowland tapirs increased with distance to roads. We conclude that national parks play a key role in the persistence of lowland tapir populations on adjacent private lands.