It’s World Tapir Day...what I hear you ask? They are one of the most amazing animals that have roamed the earth for 34 million years. They’re literally living fossils, but most people have no idea what they are!
On World Tapir Day, hear from two of our zoo keepers who devote their days to looking after these unique, but sadly threatened species.
Emma – Brazilian Tapir Keeper
Tapirs are an animal unlike any other; but they’re constantly mistaken for numerous different species. When you stand in front of the exhibit, you often hear Zoo visitors wonder aloud if they’re elephants, hippos, ant eaters and I even heard them called snorkel pigs!
Tapirs are in fact very unique, from their tiny tails, long proboscis (nose), squeaky noises to their love for any sort of a scratch. Our Brazilian Tapir, ‘ Tiquie’ is one of my favourite animals to work with, she is so charismatic and affectionate. On hot days she loves to stand up on her back legs to get closer to the water when we give her a cooling shower.
Tapirs in the wild however are not doing so well with all four tapir species now classified as either vulnerable or endangered. They face many threats such as hunting and habitat loss. Taronga is helping support tapirs in the wild by helping to fund the Lowland Tapir Conservation Initiative in Brazil.
Tapirs are widely recognised as an umbrella species, which means that by protecting them and their habitat many other species will also be brought under protection.
This World Tapir Day we hope that more light is shed on this amazing animal and that we can secure a better future for tapirs in the wild.
Justine – Malayan Tapir Keeper
In 1996 our Malayan Tapir ‘Berani’ arrived at Taronga Zoo to be part of the breeding program . At approximately the same time I also started working on the Asian Mammals section at Taronga Zoo. I had only been in the Zoo for just over a year and had worked only a small amount of time with a Brazilian Tapir so I was very fortunate to be given the opportunity to work with ‘Berani’.
At the time he was only a young 13 month old. He was a very calm animal loving attention all the time! This is when I knew I would be involved with tapirs for a long time to come!
‘Berani’ was then matched with a female Malayan Tapir ‘Denise’ who then gave birth to the first Malayan Tapir born in Australia! Not only was he special to us, he also made Australian history.
Berani has such a beautiful nature always wanting to be brushed. The keepers only have to whisper to him and he will collapse in a heap so he will can a brush. Most of the time he is like a big dog to work with, adoring the attention he receives, but as with all tapirs they can be unpredictable at times. Tapirs are close relatives of the horse and rhino so just like horses anything can set them off to run or in a panic. They generally run first and think later….
Everyone who works with Berani falls in love with him. He is such a handsome boy and has a very endearing nature.
I personally love working with him after all this time and still remember the first time I met him I was thinking what an amazing animal. After all this time ‘Berani’ still amazes me – this impressive 350kg animal, but such a sook!
I think the fact we can educate people on what tapirs are what threats they face will not only help the tapirs but all the smaller animals in their ranges.
There are four tapir species the Mountain Tapir, Bairds Tapir, Brazilian Tapir and the Malayan Tapir. Here at Taronga we are lucky enough to exhibit two of the species. All but the Brazilian is endangered at present.
Although tapirs don’t naturally live in Australia, it doesn’t mean our Zoo visitors can’t help them. Tapirs, like a lot of wildlife suffer due to habitat destruction, the loss of their homes. We can help by buying furniture that is made from sustainable timber and trying to source palm oil free products and even recycled toilet paper. All these things add up, helping to reduce the loss of forests, which ultimately help many species roaming this planet.
Tapirs have roamed the earth for 34 million years but thanks to human activities some species of tapir have gone extinct. So help us on World Tapir Day to spread the word about these animals and remember to think of them when you’re out shopping.