Tapirs

Tapirs

Mammalia

SCIENTIFIC CLASSIFICATION

COMMON NAME: tapirs
KINGDOM: Animalia
PHYLUM: Chordata
CLASS: Mammalia
ORDER: Perissodactyla
FAMILY: Tapiridae
GENUS SPECIES: Tapirus with three subgenera (TapirusTapirella, and Acrocodia) and four species

FAST FACTS

DESCRIPTION: Tapirs are marked by a high rounded rump which tapers to a sloped, somewhat elongate head. The snout and upper lip form a snub proboscis. They are covered in short, coarse fur - with some species exhibiting a narrow mane. Coloration varies among species with most maintaining a dark brownish red dorsal coat and a lighter hued ventral coat. One species, T. indicus, exhibits a white central coat with the hind legs, fore legs, and head being black in hue.
SIZE: Head & body length = 180-250 cm
Tail length = 5-13 cm
Shoulder height = 73-120 cm
WEIGHT: 150-320 kg
DIET: Aquatic vegetation, low-growing terrestrial plants and shoots
GESTATION: 390-95 days (T. indicus)
385-412 days (T. terrestris)
SEXUAL MATURITY: 3-4 years
LIFE SPAN: In a controlled setting, one species reached 35 years
RANGE: Portions of Central and South America (3 species); southern Burma and Thailand, Malay Peninsula and Sumatra (1 species)
HABITAT: Wooded and/or grassy areas with a permanent water source
POPULATION: GLOBAL Varies according to species
STATUS: IUCN Lists one species as endangered, one as near threatened, and two as vulnerable
CITES Lists three species on appendix 1 and one on appendix 2
USFWS Lists all four species as endangered

FUN FACTS

1. Tapirs, depending upon the species, are found at altitudes ranging from sea level to 4,500 meters.
2. Tapirs' hooves will wear obvious paths to often used water sources. These paths are occasionally used as guides by engineers as they plot the course of roads along mountainsides.
3. Tapirs are generally solitary, communicating via shrill whistles and urine scent-marks. Encounters among adult tapirs typically result in aggressive behavior.
4. In all species, young tapirs have a reddish brown coat with yellow and white stripes and spots. At 5-8 months of age, they lose this coloration and exhibit the adult coat common to their species.

ECOLOGY AND CONSERVATION

Tapirs face the pressures of sport and subsistence hunting as well as habitat loss (forested areas are cleared for agriculture and cattle grazing). For one species, T. pinchaque, these pressures have reduced their numbers to 1,000-2,500 individuals. The disappearance of any of these species would be a particular tragedy as they are key dispersers of plant seeds.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Nowak, Ronald M. Walker's Mammals of the World - Volume I (Sixth Edition)