Central American tapir, Danta, Anteburro (regions around Oaxaca & Veracruz), Macho de Monte (Costa Rica, Panama & Columbia), Mountain cow (Belize)
Baird’s tapir is a primitive species, looking like the ancestor of rhinos and horses. The conspicuously long, fleshy and trunk-like nose is one of the most distinguishing characteristics of this animal. The hind feet of this tapir have 3 spread-out toes, while the front feet display 4 toes. It is the largest mammal, native to Central America, where it inhabits tropical forests and grasslands. Baird’s tapirs almost haven't changed during the last 35 million years. This mammal is extremely shy and quiet by nature and is thus difficult to come across in the wild.
over 30 yrs
The original range of this animal used to cover a large territory across Central America, stretching from south-eastern Mexico to Panama and north-western parts of Colombia. The current range of Baird’s tapirs is very small and fragmented. Ideal habitat for this species is dense tropical jungle, where these animals are typically found near areas with constant water source.
Habits and lifestyle
These animals are hard to see in the wild due to their cautious and quiet behavior. Baird’s tapirs can live either solitarily or in social units. Groups of this species are typically small family units. These animals often have overlapping territories. Baird’s tapirs can be active during both day and night. However, they usually prefer spending their daytime hours in forests or thickets, coming out of their shelters only by night, when they browse in forest clearings. These mammals are known to be extremely agile creatures. They are well-adapted to moving through both dense and open environment. Additionally, they are excellent climbers and swimmers, easily getting over steep slopes and bathing diurnally in nearby streams and rivers. When feeling danger, Baird’s tapirs often hide under water. They have specific routes within their home ranges, which they use every day. These tracks are usually scent marked with urine. Communication occurs through scent marks as well as vocalizations such as shrill whistles.
Diet and nutrition
Baird’s tapirs are likely to be monogamous, considering the seasonal stability of their habitat. A male and a female form a lifelong pair. Each of these pairs has its own home range, which is fiercely defended against outsiders. Breeding may occur throughout the year with a peak period, which takes place just before the rainy season. A single calf is born after 390 - 400 days of gestation. The newborn tapir weighs about 9.4 kg on average. During the first 1 - 2 years of its life, the baby lives with its family, members of which travel and sleep together. Hence, the calf is cared for by both parents.
Year-round, the peak prior to rainy seasons
The biggest threat to the population of this endangered species is habitat loss. In fact, Baird's tapirs have already lost much of their original range. Further, these mammals exhibit an extremely low reproductive rate, which is compounded by hunting. They heavily suffer from forest clearing due to various types of development, including cattle ranching. For example, Baird's tapirs have lost nearly all of their forest range in El Salvador. Moreover, it's currently unknown whether these animals still exist in this country.
According to the IUCN Red List, the total Baird’s tapir population estimate for mature individuals is thought to be close to 3,000. This includes: 500-600 mature individuals in the Mosquitia area of Honduras and Nicaragua; approximately 600-800 mature individuals in the forest of Indio-Maiz of Costa Rica and Panama; about 1,000-1,500 individuals in the Maya Forest of Mexico, Belize and Guatemala. Currently, Baird’s tapirs are classified as Endangered (EN) and their numbers continue to decrease.
In certain parts of their range, Baird’s tapirs serve as key seed dispersers of the plants they consume. Meanwhile, since populations in different habitats use different amounts of fruit, their role varies greatly among specific regions. Additionally, their small overall population and sensitivity to disturbance help to determine the health of Neotropical rainforests.
Fun facts for kids
- This species gets its name from Spencer Fullerton Baird, who was an American naturalist.
- A female Baird's tapir named April has become the National Animal of Belize. Moreover, her birthday is a national event for this country. She is nicknamed "the mountain cow". You can see this animal at the Belize Zoo.
- The word 'tapir originates from a Brazilian Indian language and means "thick". These animals are so called due to their tough hide.
- Tapirs have rather good appetites! Each individual may consume as much as 75 pounds (34 kilograms) of food in a single day.
- The flexible snout of this animal is prehensile, able to move in all directions.
- In 2013, a new species of this genus was discovered. The newly found animal was called the Kabomani tapir.
- Tapirs spend a considerable amount of time in the water in order to cool off and get rid of parasites.