Mountain (Woolly) Tapir

ZOO LOCATION: Tapir Exhibit


Lifespan: Up to 30 years

Wild Diet: Leaves, fresh sprouts, grasses, fruits, plants, small branches of bushes and trees

Habitat/Range: The tropical Andes mountains in Columbia, Ecuador and northern Peru

Predators: Jaguar and bear

SSP: no

IUCN Status: Endangered


Characteristics: Mountain or 'woolly' tapirs are the smallest and most graceful of the tapir species. Unlike other tapirs, their skin is thin and the coat is soft and woolly, especially at the underside. Their general body shape is rounded in back and tapers toward the front. Has short, thick tails, small eyes and short, round ears. Head and body length is about 6-8 ft, with a shoulder height of 2 1/2 - 4 ft. Weight is 300-500 lbs. Nose and upper lips are elongated, well developed with special muscles and easily moves in all directions. It acts more like a sensitive "finger" used to pull leaves and shoots within reach of the mouth. The tip is equipped with hair-like bristles that help the animal explore its environment.

Behavior: One of the most primitive large mammals. They are excellent swimmers, climbers, runners and divers. Like to sit on their hindquarters. Unsocial and cautious. Usually solitary except for females with young. Tapirs remain close to one locality and stay on their regular paths. At steep slopes they form chutes and stairs, may wear paths to permanent water supplies. Human engineers sometimes follow their paths in construction of roads. Like rhinos, they mark their territories and daily routes with urine.

Reproduction: A single young is born after a gestation of 390-400 days. Young are weaned within a year and sexually mature within three years.

Conservation: Mountain tapirs are the most endangered large mammals in South America and are extinct in parts of the Andes Mountains of Ecuador, Colombia and Peru. Illegal hunting and the loss of habitat to crops and livestock are the major threats to the mountain tapir's survival. Unless trends are reversed the unique mountain tapir may vanish from our world within the next 10 to 20 years. Zoo admissions support Cheyenne Mountain Zoo's efforts to protect mountain tapirs. We care for one of only two captive breeding pairs in the world and hope to provide offspring that will be returned to their native lands. The Zoo also provides technical and financial support to field biologists in Colombia.


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