SPECIES FACT FILE
Scientific name: Tapirus terrestris
English names: Lowland Tapir, Brazilian Tapir, South American Tapir
Spanish and local names: Anta Brasileña, Danta, Danta Amazónica, Gran Bestia, Tapir Brasileño
Size: 1.7 – 2.5 meters (6’10 – 8’2 ft.)
Weight: 300 kg (661 lbs.)
Tapirs are the largest mammals in tropical Latin America. With a weight of up to 300 kilograms, they are only slightly heavier than male Andean Bears, Tremarctos ornatus, which would be the second on the list. In addition to that, tapirs are the most primitive large land mammal in the world; they have been around without changes for more than 20 million years. There are five species of tapirs, most of them live in north and South America and the only exception is a Malaysian relative, being the South American Tapirs the largest of all the five species.
It’s hard to tell what a Tapir really is; they are closely related to rhinos and horses because of their odd-numbered toes and hooves. They are a large sized, have small eyes, are gray colored and have a distinctive long snout, or shortened trunk if we compare to elephants. Their hair is short and they have a mane of hair and fatty on their neck which defends them against their main predator, the Jaguar.
South American Tapirs can be found in all of the tropical forests of South America, including savannahs, wetlands, and tropical rainforests. This means they can be found in countries like Brazil, the Guiana’s, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay and Northern Argentina. The maximum altitude they are found in the Andes-amazon encounter is 900 meters. They prefer woody areas and live near lakes and rivers.
Tapirs play an important role in their ecosystem; they are important seed dispersers and nutrient recyclers, helping return nutrients to the ground. In a study in Peru their manure was found to contain seeds of more than 122 plant species! Tapirs eat a lot of leaves, some 34 kilograms per day, but they also eat many other things with the help of their all-purpose mini trunk. This trunk or snout has many different uses. It is very good for smelling around in search for food, it can strip the leaves off branches and it can also pick and pluck fruits and seeds.
Tapirs have a very slow reproductive rate, are easily hunted and are one of the most appreciated meals that can exist. These factors combined have led to a significant threat to this species conservation. Deforestation and hunting are their main threats and they have completely disappeared from former regions where they used to live. They are heavily prone to suffer population changes when some minimal hunting occurs, and are listed as vulnerable by the UICN which means they are endangered.
OLD BEING- Tapirs have remained unchanged for the last 20 million years. They are the oldest large land mammal that still exists today.
BULK EATER- Tapirs can eat all kinds of foods, but mainly leaves and shrubs, and have been known to eat up to 34 kilograms a day.
HAND IN MOUTH- Tapirs have a snout which they can use for many things. They can move it in all directions and explore an area 30 cm around them without moving their head.
Images of Apthapi the Tapir at Senda Verde