TAPIR

Scientific Name: Tapirus bairdii

Tapirs usually stay close to water, and on hot days have been observed submerged with only their heads above the surface.

The Tapir is Costa Rica’s largest land mammal. It’s also been around for a while. It’s fossil records go back nearly 20-million years! A Tapir is an interesting animal, and is what you get if you were to cross an rhinoceros with a horse. Ancient tapirs would not have looked much different from the tapirs today, although their noses didn’t grow to the present length until the last few million years.

A Tapir is a huge animal. The average adult weighs 330 – 660 pounds and can grow well over 6 feet in length.

A Tapir’s thick hide is covered with a short, bristly-haired, dark brown coat. Baby tapirs have a lighter coat brightly marked with white streaks and spots. The most noticeable feature of the tapir is its nose, which looks and functions like a shortened version of an elephant’s trunk.

Bairds Tapirs are herbivores. They eat mostly plant matter that they find on the ground or at eye level. They have also been known to scavenge for fallen fruit.

A tapir can be either diurnal or nocturnal, although in areas where they coexist with humans, most of their activity occurs during the night. They are very agile and can run up and down steep slopes with ease.


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Tapirs are usually a solitary animal, preferring the company of itself than other tapirs. Their eyesight is quite poor, but their other senses are extremely sharp (hearing, smell). They are easily frightened, and therefore are difficult to see in the wild.

Even though, the tapir might not be the most beautiful animal in the rainforest, it still plays a vital role in the rainforest ecosystem. For centuries, tapirs have been hunted for their meat (which is similar to wild pig or boar). Tapirs are also heavily affected by habitat destruction, causing each of the four species of tapirs to be considered endangered.

Dave Freeman is the Executive Director of the Wilderness Classroom. Dave and Amy Freeman have traveled over 30,000 miles by kayak, canoe and dogsled through some of the world’s wildest places. National Geographic named the Dave and Amy Adventurers of the Year in 2014.

When the Freemans aren’t on expeditions or conducting school assemblies, they guide canoe, kayak and dogsled trips.

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