Baird's tapirThe Baird's Tapir is a species of Tapir and is one of the three that is found in Central America, and is the largest land animal in Central America. Weighing in at an impressive 240-400 kilograms (525-880 lbs) the Tapir is a force to be reckoned with for any predator that might try to attack it (with the exception of man). Baird’s Tapir has a unique cream colored marking on its face and throat, while also have a darker spot on its cheeks. Its body has short black hair over a dark skin for added protection when it hides, if it hides; their legs are short and very powerful, allowing for the Tapir to run as fast as a human can when in the forest, and are well suited for moving through the brush and obstacles that they may encounter. It has a prehensile nose, and looks somewhat like a large boar; however the nose is reminiscent of an elephants (with a much shorter length). They have small tails that really don’t do much at all. Overall they are excellent swimmers and have been known to favor water and go diving to the bottom to search for soft plants when water is available to them. Their communication between distances is usually in the form of a kind of whistling call, and they can certainly pick up very faint sounds with excellent hearing.
The behavior of Baird’s Tapir is in line with its smaller cousins, as it prefers to forage for food, and it uses its specialized nose as a tool to gather up food and place it into the mouth, along with grasping leaves from trees it may otherwise be unable to reach. Gestation time (pregnancy) lasts for more than a year, usually extending to 390 days. Because they are such a large mammal they will usually only have one offspring per pregnancy, however in rare cases it as been observed that two have been born at the same time. The young tapir will stay with its mother for at least six months, and will usually stay as long as eight, by which time it has grown rapidly and reached a near adult size. When Baird’s Tapir is still young, or newborn, it has white stripes, spots, and is a bright reddish color.
Baird’s Tapir belongs to the genus Tapirus, which has three other species of Tapir. Tapirus belongs to the family Tapiridae, in which it is the only genus alive today. The family Tapiridae belongs to the order Perissodactyla, which is all the odd toed ungulates, such as the horses and the rhinoceroses, and many other extinct species. Today, Baird’s Tapir is listed as endangered, and is currently under threat of extinction due to the actions of humans. Because of their long gestation time, a loss of a sing Baird’s Tapir becomes a problem, as that means one less Tapir to breed, and one more that will take more than a year to replace. Because of habitat loss they are isolated more and more from other populations, making genetic shallowing a real threat to the species’ survival. They are hunted and poached in spite of laws (which are not enforced most of the time) and their meat traded on the black market. Their numbers continue to decline as does their viable habitat and their ability to move around to other areas.
Interesting Facts about Baird’s Tapir:
- Baird’s Tapir is a very shy animal, and will run away rather than confront a human or perceived threat, unless harassed and cornered.
- When threatened or alarmed, the animal will let it be known by stamping a foot very hard against the ground as a method to ward off the threat and to defend itself.
- Their mouth is exceptionally powerful. There has been one documented incident in which a zookeeper was perceived as a threat by the animal, which then bit the zookeeper. It had such a powerful bite that it severed her arm.
Picture og the Baird's tapir by Sapphic, licensed under GFDL
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