With the mercury hovering around 30 degrees on a real Sydney summer day, our Brazilian Tapir, ‘Tiquie’ got a cooling hose-down from her keeper, Tracy.
Tiquie is the darling of the Zoo’s Waterhole exhibit. She loves attention and the feel of the cool water dribbling through her wiry hair. Tiquie purposely faces into the water stream, using her prehensile lip to get more of the cool water on her. Tracy then used a damp cloth to sponge Tiquie down. It was quite a sight to see this massive 250 kilogram animal simply turn to mush and lap up the attention. It’s a great chance for Tracey to give Tiquie a head-to-toe check over too.
Tapirs are true living fossils. The species is over 35 million years old, but despite having roamed the earth for millennia, most people have no idea what they are. As Zoo visitors congregated, envious of ‘Tiquie’ having her cool shower, she was called a ‘large pig’, ‘strange looking camel’ and the best one, an over-grown guineapig. One thing everyone agreed on, is that she was certainly one lucky animal, loving the bath and belly scratch.
Coming from the Amazon rainforests, Brazilian Tapirs are semi-aquatic and quite used to the warm humid conditions, however when summer kicks into gear, we always make sure our animals have extra water and heaps of shade to retreat to. The colourful birds in the aviaries and docile koalas have misting machines in their exhibits, ‘Kibabu’ the Silverback gorilla and his family usually enjoy their climate-controlled indoor room where people can watch the youngsters running amuck on the play equipment and ‘Bethyl’ our old Kodiak Bear loves to dip her shaggy hair in what is affectionately known as her ‘spa bath’.
Tracey is sure that Tiquie thinks our keepers are primarily here to wait on her hand and foot, give her belly rubs and cool baths! And as Tiquie sits down and presents her belly for another scratch (much to the oooohs and aggghs of the Zoo visitors who now know what a Tapir is) I think Tracy is probably right.