STATUS IN THE WILD: Vulnerable
RANGE: South America
PHYSICAL FEATURES AND CHARACTERISTICS
The lowland tapir can also be referred to as the Brazilian Tapir and is one of four species of tapir. The tapir is a relative of the rhinoceros. One of the most distinguishing features of tapirs is their long, flexible nose, also known as a flexible proboscis. This allows them to grasp leaves, shoots, buds, and small branches. They can also use this nose as a snorkel while underwater. They have splayed toes, four on each front foot and three on each hind foot, which help them successfully navigate through soggy ground.
They weigh between three hundred thirty and five hundred fifty pounds and measure about six feet in length, with male tapirs being slightly larger than females. Adult lowland tapirs have brown coats that vary in shade, darker hair on their sturdy legs, and short, stiff manes. They also have very short tails. This specific tapir has a prominent, erect mane that sits on top of the crest and extends from the forehead to the shoulders. Their hides are very tough but streamlined for moving around easily in the forest.
Tapirs communicate with each other in many ways. They can produce a high-pitched whistle to talk to one another and a snort to ward off other tapirs. They also mark areas with urine to make other tapirs aware of their presence.
LIFESTYLE AND REPRODUCTION
During the day, lowland tapirs remain hidden in thick, covered areas, coming out only at night to browse on small plants, shrubs, and saplings of trees. They follow worn paths in their home range to different food and water sources. The tapir swims well and will spend a lot of time wallowing in water, which helps get rid of skin parasites along with providing additional protection from terrestrial predators, such as jaguars and pumas. They will also walk around on riverbeds, searching for favored aquatic plants.
Tapirs are primarily solitary animals, except during mating season. The females give birth to a single calf after a gestation period of 13 months. The calf will stay in contact with its mother for around seven months while becoming more independent. Baby tapirs are born with spotted and striped coats for camouflage, which will darken as they age. When the calves are young, they are left behind in a heavily covered area, where the mothers return once or twice a day to feed them. The young tapir will follow her mother for a while until she eventually leaves the baby behind. As the baby grows, it spends more and more time walking around with its mother, learning what plants are edible. This process goes on and on until the young tapir reaches a level of independence and has learned what it can and cannot eat.
They are broadly distributed across most of mainland South America east of the Andes, from northern Colombia extending to southern Brazil, northern Argentina and Paraguay, throughout Venezuela and the Guyanas, eastern Peru, and northern and eastern Bolivia.
They are found in lowland rainforests where water is present. The habitat varies extensively throughout the continent. They will move seasonally to higher elevations during the rainy seasons. In the rainforests they stay in the areas with the most ground coverage, staying out of sight during the daytime.
They are considered browsing herbivores, feeding on various ground vegetation and fruits. They also eat whole shrubs and tree bark but particularly love bananas. They swim and walk in ponds, feeding on various aquatic plants.