In doing the research for this piece I uncovered a rather fun introductory question.
“What has 14 hooves, a rubbery snout and walks under water?”
The answer is the very odd looking Tapir. Tapirs look something like the mixture of a skinny hippopotamus and an overgrown pig. Add to this strange combination a short prehensile trunk. The result is a Tapir!
The prehensile trunk is actually an extension of the nose and upper lip. They use this trunk to grab branches and pluck fruit during morning and evening foraging missions. As can be seen in the video below they also use this trunk for acute smelling. One could best describe them as being ‘crepuscular’ although this is by no means set in stone. It appears that they are territorial and will use similar areas to feed and often use the same tracks to get to these areas.
Tapirs are excellent swimmers and will often submerge themselves and walk along the bottom of a water body. This allows them to feed on aquatic plants. During the hot days they can be seen wallowing in pools to cool down. We also believe that, like many animals in Africa, they layer themselves in mud in an attempt to remove ticks and biting insects.
They have splayed feet, with four toes on each front foot and three on each back foot. These spread toes help them to walk in muddy and soft ground.
There are four species of Tapir – All four tapir species are endangered or threatened, largely due to hunting and habitat loss. The species we get here at Caiman Ecological Refuge is the Brazillian (or Lowland) Tapir.
Life expectancy: 25-30 years
Gestation: 13 months
Weight: 220 – 370kg
Note: Back in 2001 over 200 Tapir ‘experts’ gathered to discuss the important question of what do you call male, female and baby Tapirs. After a lengthy debate they decided not to use the words “bull” and “cow”, but rather “male” and “female”. They did however opt to call a baby Tapir a “calf”. To raise awareness for the decline of the four Tapir species it was decided that they need to have their own day…hence why on the 27th April each year we have World Tapir Day.