If it looks like a wild pig, the tapir is nevertheless a cousin of horses and rhinos. Meeting with a mammal whose long nose is very useful.
5 species of tapir
The tapir (Tapirus) is a large mammal of the family Tapiridae. The animal belongs to the order of Perissodactyls, ungulates non-ruminants with an odd number of fingers like rhinoceros and horse. The tapir – whose existence dates back 35 million years – is depicted by 5 species:
- The tapir at chabraque (Tapirus indicus), also called Indian tapir or Malay tapir, lives only in Southeast Asia;
- The tapir earthly (Tapirus terrestris) or Brazilian tapir, is found in South America;
- The tapir woolly (Pinchaque tapirus) also nicknamed mountain tapir or Andean tapir also lives in South America;
- The tapir of Baird (Tapirus bairdi) is found in Central and South America;
- The little tapir black (Kabomani tapirus) evolves in Brazil, Colombia and Guyana. This species was only discovered in 2013.
Tapir: a very useful mini-trunk
The tapir displays a broad neck and a rather massive covered with a thick epidermis short hair. The pinchaque is an exception by wearing a woolly fleece while the terrestrial tapir is distinguished by its mane Brown. The mammal’s elongated head ends in a snout shaped like a mini-proboscis. This mobile attribute and prehensile, being able to contract and lengthen at will, allows him to remove leaves from the branches and to pull up the plants to feed. His large nose also serves as a tuba when he immerses himself to escape danger. The tapir has small erect ears, a reduced tail, strong and short legs extended by hooves. His highly developed sense of smell and hearing compensate for his poor vision. It measures about 2 m long and 1 m high for a weight ranging between 150 to 300 kg. The kabomani species, the smallest of all, weighs an average of 110 kg.
The tapir always lives near water
The tapir is found on continents located at the antipodes: present in Asia, Central and South America, it is completely absent from africa. Its geographical dispersion is explained by migration via the Bering Strait. The mammal prefers wooded areas and humid tropical forests mainly located near stream from which it only very rarely departs. Water represents various functions for tapirs: in addition to cooling off, animals like to immerse themselves in it to get rid of parasites or flee in case of danger.
The tapir, gardener of the forests
Exclusively vegetarian with a folivorous tendency, the tapir consumes buds, leaves, bark, fruits, seeds, twigs and other terrestrial and aquatic plants. At sunset and at dawn, the mammal is able to ingest between 30 to 40 kg of grass daily. Very selective, it feeds on plants that it collects using its prehensile proboscis. Then, with its large teeth, it cuts the branches and breaks the toughest seeds. The tapir, nicknamed the “forest gardener”, helps disperse the seeds it has consumed through its faeces. The digested and rejected seeds thus allow the growth of plants and the regeneration of the forest.
The tapir, a nocturnal and solitary animal
The tapir is an animal discreet which quickly weaves its way through the thickets, making its way through the most inaccessible places. At the hottest hours of the day, he likes to wallow in the mud, both to refresh and to deworm. The tapirid inhabits a large area that it marks by urinating on leaves and bushes. This nocturnal and solitary mammal only meets its congeners during the mating season. He communicates with them by pushing shrill screams and loud sniffles.
The slow reproduction of the tapir
Reproduction can take place all year round. With a duration of gestation About 13 months old, females only give birth to one 6-kilo calf every two years. The newborn has a dark coat dotted with bands or dots yellowish which disappear at the age of 6 to 10 months. First suckled, the juvenile becomes independent around the age of 10 months and reaches sexual maturity between 3 and 5 years.
The tapir, an endangered species
In the wild, the jaguar, anaconda and even the puma are the main predators of the tapir. On the Red List of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and according to the species, the animal is classified in category vulnerable or in danger. The main threats weighing on it are the destruction of its habitat (deforestation, cultivation) and bydrying up wetlands (global warming). The mammal is also hunted for its meat and skin. He lives on average 30 years wild.