Saturday, September 3, 2011

Baird's Tapir

Tapirs are pretty sweet animals. For one, they look completely unlike just about any other thing you've ever seen... except maybe pigs. But here is the kicker- Tapirs are actually most closely related to Horses and Rhinos!
Tapirus bairdii

There are four species of Tapir, including the Bairds, and they can be found in both South AMerica and South East Asia. Their family, Tapiridae is one of only three living families in the entire Perissodactyla order; another dozen or so are now completely extinct. It's crazy to think that of all the Ungulates in the world, only Tapirs, Rhinos, and Horses remain to represent 55 million years of evolution!

Baird's Tapirs can be found in South and Central America, and are named for naturalism Spencer Fullerton Baird who described them in 1843. They are the largest of the three American Tapirs, and have dark coats with distinctive cream colored markings on the cheeks and neck. Like all Tapirs, they have an extended snout and upper lip that helps them the forage and feel around for food. You can always tell where a Tapir has been because they forage along Zig-Zagged paths of their own creation.

Despite their size, Baird's Tapirs are surprisingly agile, and are great swimmers, divers, and climbers. Their large size makes it difficult for them to dissipate heat, so they typically live around water for easy wallowing on a hot day. 

Sadly, Baird's Tapirs are Endangered, and only around 5,500 remain in the wild. Habitat loss has been their biggest threat, as forested areas continue to be torn down. They are currently part of a Species Survival Plan, and studbook is being kept for captive breeding purposes.

IUCN Status : Endangered
Location : South and Central America
Size : Length up to 6.6ft (2m), Weight up to 850lbs (385kg)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Mammalia -- Order : Perissodactyla
Family : Tapiridae -- Genus : Tapirus -- Species : T. bairdii

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