What is a Tapir


Interesting Tapir Tidbits

All tapirs have a prehensile “trunk,” which is in reality an extended nose that the animals use to clutch branches and feed.  Believe it or not, these creatures can eat up to 85 pounds of vegetation in a single day. Tapirs are excellent swimmers and can often be found in marshy areas and water holes, where they dive for aquatic plants. Their bodies are characterized by white-tipped ears, thick rumps and hooved feet, which help them walk on muddy terrain. Young tapirs have either striped or spotted coats to help camouflage from potential predators. Tapir fur is course and colorations vary from gray and black to reddish-brown, depending on the species. 

Fast Facts about the Tapir

  • Preferred habitat: Rainforests, Rivers, Swamps, Woodlands and Cloud Forests
  • Diet: Herbivore (Plant eater: leaves, bark, flowers, twigs, berries, fruit, aquatic plants)
  • Lifespan: Up to 30 years in the wild
  • Size: From 500 to 800 pounds
  • Activity: Mostly nocturnal, though they can be active during the day
  • Reproduction: Females give birth to one offspring after a 13-month gestation
  • Behavior: Mostly solitary animals except during mating periods

Where do Tapirs Live

The Baird's tapir ranges throughout Mexico, Central America and through northern parts of Colombia. The Lowland tapir inhabits the rainforests of South America. The paramos of the Andes of Colombia, Ecuador and Peru are home to the Mountain tapir, which prefers cooler cloud forest habitats. Asian (Malayan) tapirs live in the jungles of Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia and Sumatra. In Costa Rica, Baird’s tapir populations are greatest in Corcovado National Park, but they have also been observed in the cloud forests of the Cerro de la Muerte, Tenorio National Park and the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve.

An Endangered Species

In the wild, tapirs have very few natural predators although jaguars and crocodiles may prey upon the young if given a chance. According to the IUCN Red List, tapirs are an endangered species - mostly due to habitat destruction and hunting by humans. Fewer than 6,000 Baird’s tapirs remain in the wild and about 1,000 of those currently inhabit the wet lowlands of Costa Rica. In the Osa Peninsula, a non-profit organization known as the Baird's Tapir Project has been actively researching the species and aiding in local conservation efforts.