Photo Narrative by Craig C. Downer


Rio Pastaza – All photos © Craig C. Downer

The Rio Pastaza drains the northern end of Sangay National Park. Eventually, it empties onto the Amazonian plain, there to deposit sedimentation in huge volumes. This load of sediment is due to the rampant deforestation and consequent erosion of the Andes. The true life-sustaining wealth of the Andes is here graphically illustrated being scoured away from the highlands.



Capture of Sambita – All photos © Craig C. Downer

Capture of “Sambita,” a female mountain tapir, age 3 years, on December 2, 1989, in west Puruhaes Francesco Mesa. Culebrillas River, Sangay National Park, about 3,300 meters elevation.





Lothosols – All photos © Craig C. Downer

“Lithosols” are prevalent in the high Andes, i.e. soils that are shallow and underlain by bedrock. Hence any colorization (deforesting, buring, cultivation or livestock grazing) quickly causes the soils to be scoured away and the bedrock to be exposed. This is an area of natural slide in the Purshi Sector of Sangay National Park, about 3,500 meters elevation, an area currently jeopardized.


Adult Tapir Tracks – All photos © Craig C. Downer

Large adult mountain tapir tracks in ashy volcanic soil.






Ecuadors National Parks – All photos © Craig C. Downer

This picture shows Ecuador’s national parks and reserves. The red area in the middle is Sangay National Park, UNESCO World Heritage Site.





Road Construction – All photos © Craig C. Downer

Devastation of upper the Purshi area caused by Guamote-Macas road construction, late March, 1995.





Torrent Duck – All photos © Craig C. Downer

A torrent duck (Merganetta armata) female and young, at Step Cascade, Culebrillas Sector, Sangay National Park.





Tapir Habitat – All photos © Craig C. Downer

La Playa Sector, Sangay National Park, December, 1991, about 3,500 meters elevation. Panoramic shot showing typical habitat of the mountain tapir and “umbrella” plants (Gunnera brephogea) clinging to steep slopes. The place is a living sponge, of vital worth for provision of pure water and moderation of waterflow.



Female Tapir – All photos © Craig C. Downer

“Esperanza,” a female mountain tapir at about nine months of age. This was taken at Pasochoa Reserve, Ecuador. With her is Carlos Rundo, herbalist and conservationist – an intelligent and articulate Ecuadorean who bitterly opposed Esperanza’s ever having been removed from Sangay National Park, as I did myself. I had prepared a reintroduction plan for releasing Esperanza back into her native region.


Slide Area – All photos © Craig C. Downer

Slide area on the western edge of Sangay National Park, El Encantado area, about 3,700 meters elevation. This area has been heavily invaded by livestock, and massive slumping is starting to denude rich volcanic soils and expose bedrock. The problems here are caused mainly by cattle, both from a private hacienda and from local communal (indigenous) cooperatives. Most of the mountain leading up from Rio Bamba to the park has been devastated by the practice of grazing cattle in these delicate watershed areas.




Tapir Parts for Sale – All photos © Craig C. Downer

Hooves and snout of a mountain tapir are offered for sale as folk medicine for epilepsy and heart ailments in Sullana Piura, Peru. It is illegal to harm or kill any mountain tapir or sell its parts in Peru, Ecuador and Columbia, but enforcement of the law is rare.




Highland Plant – All photos © Craig C. Downer

Prunus serotina – one of the highland plants which the mountain tapir seeds through its feces. One fourth of the flowering plants in this study area were seeded by the mountain tapir. Thus, the mountain tapir is a vital keystone species for the high Andes of northern South America.






Collaring Gloria – All photos © Craig C. Downer

Collaring of “Gloria,” a two-year old female mountain tapir, in July of 1990, Culebrillas, Sangay National Park. Collaring the tapir is park ranger Bernardo Huisha. Gloria was “poached” within one half year. [Ed note from a conversation with the author: The light colored collars do not appear to make the tapir easier prey for hunters; they become muddy almost immediately and are less easy to spot. In addition, most hunting is done the traditional way – with dogs, lassoes and machetes rather than with rifles. It can sometimes take a whole day for hunters and their dogs to bring down a mountain tapir.]

Esperanza 4 months – All photos © Craig C. Downer

Esperanza at the age of four months at Armando Castellano’s place in Quito. She was being bottle nursed with cows’ milk at this time. She almost died between her capture at two months and the time of this photo. Antibiotics were causing digestive collapse.






Esperanza 9 months – All photos © Craig D. Downer

Esperanza, later at Pasochoa Reserve, about nine months of age. She died of rabies at this reserve at a little over two years of age, having been bitten by a rabid cat. I had planned to release her to Sangay National Park.




Sample Tour to Sangay National Park – Join us

Proposal for Culmination of Mountain Tapir, Andean Forest and
Paramo Protection Project in Northern Peru