Lowland tapir (Tapirus terrestris)

Brazilian Tapir

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Find our tapir next to the pygmy hippos at the Semi-Aquatic Mammal House.

Fast facts

Status Vulnerable

Size 170-200cm (including tail)

Weight 200-250kg

Gestation 13 months

Young 1-2

Life span 25-30 years in the wild, up to 35 years in captivity

What do I eat?

Tapirs are herbivores, feeding on a wide range of fruits and vegetation. They use their flexible nose (proboscis) almost like a finger, to pluck vegetation from low hanging trees and shrubs, and to also sniff around in the leaf litter for fallen fruits.

These animals are mostly active at night (nocturnal) but will also look for food during dawn and dusk.

Where do I live?

Lowland tapirs are found within damp and seasonally wet rainforests and swampy habitats from Venezuela to northern Argentina, South America.

They spend a lot of their time near a source of water, as they will wallow in water and mud to cool down during hot weather and also to get rid of skin parasites such as ticks. In addition it also gives them a way of escaping predators.

Breeding

Tapirs are solitary animals, spending most of their lives on their own except when a female has young or when breeding. These animals can mate all year around, and can breed from 2-4 years old.

Typically one calf is born (twins are rare) and look very different to adults. They are born with a patterned coat with spots and stripes which acts as camouflage to hide from predators. These markings usually fade after 6-8 months. Tapirs will often leave their mothers from the age of 7 months.

Predators

Main predators of lowland tapirs include crocodiles and big cats such as jaguars.

Tapirs use their colourings as camouflage to blend in to their environment; adults also have thick skin to protect themselves (like armour) and will bite and snap at close threats. If threatened, they will go towards water; they are strong swimmers and can cross rivers if necessary.

Conservation

Due to the increase in demand for land for agriculture and timber, habitat loss is one of the major threats to lowland tapirs. Another major threat is hunting. This animal is hunted not only for its meat, but also its hide which is sometimes sold on to tourists in the form of sandals or other products.

Lowland tapir are found within protected areas; however some are close to human settlements, where poaching has been a problem. There are conservation efforts in place to create projects to reduce hunting of tapirs by creating more protected reserves and reduce habitat loss through sustainable forestry projects.

Did you know?

The lowland tapir is also known as the Brazilian tapir.

Even though tapirs look very similar to pigs, they are actually related to horses and rhinoceroses.

Tapirs have an important role as seed dispersers; the fruits they eat contain seeds that pass out of their digestive system in various areas throughout their habitat. One study in Peru found 122 different species of seeds found in tapir dung!

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Value for money and a great day outArmy Welfare Service, 18th March 2015