I contacted Armando via the Andean Bear Conservation Group to enquire whether there would be an opportunity for my family, including children aged 10 to 12, to participate in some field work. We had undertaken something similar in Ladakh with the Snow Leopard Conservation Group and wanted to repeat a truly unique experience. Armando was in the process of monitoring Tapir numbers and movement within the Cayambe-Coca Reserve, commonly known as the Ecuadorean lake district, and was kind enough to let us join him, even though numbers make the trail significantly harder. Armando has tagged several Tapirs which makes the initial pinpointing of location much easier. They are, however, highly elusive animals and can either go to ground or gallop off for miles following the slightest sign of human presence. As expected, the trekking was long and the terrain steep and heavily covered, albeit stunningly beautiful. Armando was assisted by two wonderful local guides who seemed to cover the ground at incredible speed and acted as both spotters and ‘beaters’ converging from different mountain ridges. Tapirs are under pressure throughout Central and Southern America as a result of exploitation of their natural habitat. They are a very rare chance encounter for travellers and so it was with privilege and wonder that, after several hours trekking, we were able to monitor one at close hand for the best part of an hour. With immense gratitude to Armando and his team.
Ps. Armando also introduced us to three glorious spectacled bears, rescued as cubs and reared to the point of release back into the wild.