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Celebrating World Tapir Day: 10 Fascinating Facts About The Tapir

Tapir Belize
In honour of World Tapir Day on April 27 and the recent news from the Belize Zoo announcing the safe arrival of a new baby tapir, we wanted to share some fascinating facts about this intriguing animal.

10 Amazing Facts About the Tapir:

1. The Tapir is the National Animal of Belize

It is the official national animal of Belize and is affectionately known as the "mountain cow”. Although it’s not a cow and is thought to be more closely related to a horse and a rhinoceros. In Indonesia, the tapir is called "badak," which is the same word for rhinos. 

2. There are 4 Recognised Species of Tapir

There are four recognised species of tapir: three in Central and South America and one in Southeast Asia. 

Baird's Tapir (Central and South America)
Brazilian Tapir (South America)
Malayan Tapir (Southeast Asia)
Mountain Tapir (South America)

3. The Tapir has 14 Toes

Tapirs have splayed, hoofed feet, with four toes on the front feet and three toes on the back, which help them walk on the muddy and soft ground.

4. Tapirs Can Weigh up to 700lbs

Tapir sizes vary between species, but most are about 2 meters long, stand about a meter high at the shoulder, and weigh between 550 and 600 lbs, about half the size of a horse. 

5. Only One Offspring is Born at a Time

Tapirs are pregnant for more than a year, with a gestation period of 13-14 months and only one offspring is born at a time. With numbers declining, it's important that the tapir's habitats are protected. 

The Belize Zoo announced that Navidad the tapir gave birth to a healthy baby boy in mid-April, 2018.

Baby Tapir Belize Zoo
Navidad and her baby boy at the Belize Zoo. Photo credit: Celso Poot 

6. Baby (calves) tapirs look like watermelons!
Tapirs are born dark, with yellow or white stripes and spots, and resemble a watermelon!  However, these distinctive markings begin to fade at three months and are completely gone after 5 to 6 months. The markings help the tapir calves blend in with the natural surroundings, away from predators. Tapir calves stay with their mother for 12 to 18 months.

7. Tapirs like to be alone

Tapirs are solitary animals who spend most of their time alone except during mating season or when mothers have their young. 

9. Tapirs love to eat fruit

Tapirs are herbivores. They feed on leaves, buds, grasses, aquatic vegetation and fruits of the low-growing shrubs. They love fruit and eat a eat a variety of seasonal fruits.

9.  Tapirs can dive

Tapirs are great swimmers and are also known to dive to the bottom of watering holes to eat vegetation on the bottom and to cool off.

10. All Tapir Species Face the Threat of Extinction

All tapirs are endangered species. They inhabit jungles, grasslands, swamps and cloud forests, yet each is threatened by human activity. World Tapir Day exists to raise awareness about the species of tapir that inhabit Central and South America and Southeast Asia and to raise funds to purchase land to protect it from human encroachment. Contact World Tapir Day to learn how you can help protect tapirs or wish to become involved with World Tapir Day. 

Are you looking for information on wildlife viewing in Belize? 

Contact one of our Belize vacation specialists at 1.800.667.1630 or email info@islandexpeditions.com for more information on wildlife viewing tours in Belize.