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Sep 13, 2006

National Animal is latest hit & run victim

Story PictureHit and run is getting to be a sad fact of life on Belize’s highways … but the victims are not always two legged pedestrians.

Jacqueline Godwin, Reporting
This tapir, believed to be a four to five year old male weighing over four hundred pounds was knocked down and killed at mile eight and a half on the Western Highway. It is believed the specimen of our national animal was hit early Tuesday morning and died sometime later from the injuries it sustained. What makes the death newsworthy is that it is the fourth to be killed in just one month.

Kirk Yard, Hattieville Resident
?The appeal I would like to make to drivers especially. We need to respect the national animal of Belize. We must could stop and give these animals the right to cross the road just like how we give pedestrians, please respect our national animal.?

Kirk Yard who resides in Hattieville Village says he was on his way to Belize City when he sighted the dead animal.

The tapir, known locally as a mountain cow as it is locally known has been patrolling the area for sometime. It is believe the animal was eating from trees nearby when it crossed the highway and struck by a vehicle.

Dirk Francisco, Publicity Coordinator, B.A.S.
?They left the tapir on the road. He was injured because his rear limb was broken. The chest of the tapir had a lot of lacerations and he was bleeding. So he was lying on the road slowly dying.?

Because of the size of the mammal and its injuries, authorities believe the vehicle was significantly damaged.

Dirk Francisco
?Whenever you knock down a tapir just please report it to the relevant authorities. You won?t be charged or anything because it was an accident. You didn?t kill it. We know that when tapirs get startled on the highway its hard for them to divert from the vehicles because of the way they are built. These are solid, thick animals; they just can?t turn left or right when they feel like.?

The reports of such incidents are concentrated in areas such as the Mile 8 Community, Hattieville, Burrell Boom and Ladyville Villages.

Dirk Francisco
?It?s just development. More and more of Belize is getting developed and we are moving into the animal?s territory. The animals aren?t moving into our territory. It is us who are moving into their territory. So the more you clear the vegetation or the areas that these animals like to traffic it is more likely that we will have occurrences with these animals.?

Because of the increased deaths Belize Audubon Society, the Forest Department and the Belize Zoo are about to embark on a campaign to help preserve one of Belize?s most prized animal species.

Dirk Francisco
?An awareness programme, where they are going to put signs in the areas where these animals are being sited, so that people are aware or cautious of the existence of a tapir in the area. Trust me you don?t want to run into a tapir because you can either injure yourself or kill the animal.?

B.A.S. publicity coordinator, Dirk Francisco says the incident has also highlighted another alarming situation.

Dirk Francisco
?In three cases we did not find the animals. People actually took away the animal because tapir again is eaten by Belizeans. Sometimes people sell you tapir meat telling you it is beef when it?s not.?

Once again you are asked to report all incidents to the Forest Department by calling the wildlife programme officer George Hanson at telephone numbers 822-1524 or 822-2079. Meanwhile, thanks go out to Kirk Yard for reporting the incident to authorities and to B.A.S. for providing video for today’s report.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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