Tapirs, Types of tapirs, Characteristics, Behavior, Habitats, Diet, Reproduction, and Threats
The tapir is a herbivorous mammal that looks like a big pig. Tapirs can be found in the rainforests of South and Central America and Southeast Asia. There are 4 surviving species of tapirs, of which three live in the American rainforests and one species lives in Rainforests in Asia.
Species of tapirs:
Tapirs are crucial nutrient recyclers, allowing the soil and landscape to thrive. They also act as biological markers of an area's health and vitality: because of their vast size, slow reproduction rate, and sensitivity to their environment, tapirs are the first to drop when there is human disturbance. Tapirs are classified as follows:
Tapirus bairdii (Tapirus bairdii):
As an adult, its coat is dark red-brown to black, with a white chest and chin and white ear fringes. it lives in Mexico and Central America.
Tapir from Brazil:
Its coat is black on the back and paler on the underside, and it is native to South America from Colombia to Paraguay and Brazil. It favors warm, wet, and humid climates. Crocodiles and jaguars are their natural predators.
Tapirus mountain or woolly:
It possesses a long, thick coat and undercoat to keep warm in its frigid alpine environment in northern South America's Andes Mountains. It is one of the world's most endangered animals.
Tapir from Malaya:
Tapirs are exclusively found in Thailand, Burma, Malaysia, and Indonesia. It has a striking coat pattern, with black in front and white in behind. Breaking up the bodily contour in the shadow of the forest, functions as concealment. Natural predators include tigers.
The "newest" of the tapirs, despite the fact that locals had known about its presence for many years. The Kabomani tapir is the smallest of the five varieties.
Characteristics of Tapirs:
Tapirs range in length from 1.8 - 2.5 meters (6 - 8.25 feet) depending on the species, can weigh between 180 - 320 kilograms (396 - 704 lb), and can stand up to 1 meter (3 feet) in height. Tapirs have light fur, Tapirs can range in color from reddish brown to black, and the Malayan tapir is one of the only breeds that have a white saddle-shaped marking on its back which may help it camouflage in dimly lit forest trees. It looks like wool.
The tapir has a thick body with short legs, a short tail, and flattened hooves. It has four toes in the front and three in the back, which helps it to walk on soft and muddy ground. It has delicate white ears and small brown eyes. It often has a trimming on its eyes that resembles a corneal cloud, which gives it poor eyesight.
However, a strong sense of smell helps to compensate for this deficiency, and tapirs have a long flexible snout and use it to pluck branches and other flakes when things are out of reach, and pregnant female tapirs have a pair of mammary glands with which they feed their young.
Behavior of Tapirs:
Tapirs are nocturnal except for the mountain tapirs which are more active during the day. Tapirs spend most of their day underwater, using their snouts to do diving, keep cool in a hot forest environment, and avoid predators. Tapirs are surprisingly graceful swimmers because of their size.
Tapirs are also able to swim in the riverbed and can also walk on the bottom, allowing small fish to become parasites on their bodies. Tapirs also like to roll around in the mud during the day, which helps them keep cool and remove insects from their skin.
Tapirs are good climbers. They climb steep hillsides and rivers with clear ease. During the night, tapirs appear wandering among plants. In general, tapirs are solitary animals that spend most of their time alone, with the exception of females and their young.
Because of the solitary tapir lifestyle, it can become aggressive towards some of its peers if it meets them by chance. High-pitched screams and whistles.
Tapirs have very few natural predators because they are large animals and the thick skin on their necks makes it more difficult for predators to scratch or prey on this animal. Most of the threats to tapirs come from large wild cats such as tigers as well as snakes, and anacondas. And crocodiles when in the water.
The tapirs can escape very quickly despite their size, and they can quickly hide in thick bushes found in forests or in the water, and when faced with a predator, tapirs can defend themselves using their strong jaws and sharp teeth.
Habitats of Tapirs:
Tapirs inhabit marshes, woods, savanna, and rainforests in Mexico, Central America, South America, and Southeast Asia's Malaya and Sumatra. Tapirs prefer woodland or grassy habitats with places to hide during the day and a lake, river, or pond to swim in at night. Their toes are spread to aid with traction in the slick muck around shorelines and on hillsides. Tapirs, which are barrel-shaped and have short, bristly hair, are remarkably agile and adept at climbing up steep riverbanks. They are considered to wander along river bottoms in the same way that hippos do. When scared, tapirs will dive into the water and breathe via their nose, which is protruded above the surface like a snorkel.
Natural tapir predators include large cats and crocodiles. Adult tapirs, on the other hand, may prevent predators with their robust hide, as well as by snapping and biting. Tapirs like spending time in the water, where they may consume aquatic vegetation, cool themselves, and wash away skin parasites. They can submerge for many minutes. Even babies as little as a few days old can swim.
Diet of Tapirs:
Many tapirs are active throughout the night, grazing for grasses, plants, and fruits. They are most active during dawn and dusk when it is cooler.
Tapirs are both browsers and grazers! The tapir uses its remarkable nose like a finger to grab leaves from tree branches or rummage around in the soft underbrush for fallen food to eat. The tapir's flexible nose allows it to investigate a circle of ground one foot (30 cm) in diameter without moving its head!
Tapirs consume a wide range of vegetation. Because of their food, they play a vital part in the ecosystem of their forest home: seeds traveling through their digestive tract aid in the reseeding of a new generation of plants. Tapirs are nocturnal, so their powerful nose comes in handy for seeking food in the dark.
Tapirs at the San Diego Zoo eat and graze on a variety of vegetables. Enrichment is provided in the form of bananas and apples.
Reproduction of Tapirs:
Tapirs mate year-round but most breeding occurs during the rainy season. Tapir chicks are born before the rains begin the following year. Mating can occur either in or out of the water. Female tapirs spend a gestation period of about 13 months, and tapirs give birth. The female is a young one.
Young tapirs such as the Brazilian tapir are often distinguished by their reddish/brown striped fur and white spotted, and this pattern provides them with camouflage in the jungle from predators, and with time their hair turns black as they grow, and young tapirs are usually weaned between 6-8 months while it is almost fully grown.
Tapirs reach sexual maturity between 3-4 years, with females reaching maturity earlier than males, and the average age of tapirs reaches 35 years in the wild.
Is tapir threatened with extinction?
Tapir numbers have been greatly reduced due to hunting for their meat, and the loss of their original habitat is also a major threat to tapirs. The mountain tapir is one of the most endangered animals, and a number of tapir conservation efforts are underway.