There’s a Fuzzy Familiar Face Back on the Mountain

April 12, 2023

MOCHI, 24-YEAR-OLD MOUNTAIN TAPIR, RETURNS TO CHEYENNE MOUNTAIN ZOO! – A critically endangered, extremely rare and iconic species, the mountain tapir, has returned to America’s mountain Zoo. Meet Mochi [MOH-chee], one of only four mountain tapir remaining in the entire country.

Longtime CMZoo members and fans may recognize him. Mochi lived at CMZoo from 2000 to 2014, when he moved to LA Zoo – where he left last month to return to Colorado.

“We are beyond excited to welcome this species back to the Zoo – and Mochi, as an individual, is going to be such a great ambassador,” said Lauren Phillippi, lead mountain tapir keeper. “He’s an older guy, but he’s really playful and curious. He loves scratches, just like our former tapir, and his brother, Cofan, did. He likes to hold his head to one side or stretch out a leg so we can get the scratches just right.”

This Monday, curious Mochi wasted no time exploring his recently updated yard, across the main Zoo road from Encounter Africa. He came straight out of his den to the yard, energetically investigating the trees, rocks, grass and snacks, with his signature tapir high-step walk. To accommodate Mochi’s advanced age, his team decided to remove a pool that was previously there, and replaced it with a comfortable sand yard. Mochi has access to a waterfall and smaller pond, where he took a brief dip.

Mochi came to CMZoo from LA Zoo, the only other organization providing homes for mountain tapir in the U.S. Because CMZoo had ample space and experience to care for another tapir after the losses of Cofan and Carlotta in 2022 and 2021, respectively, Mochi got the opportunity to live out his golden years at his former home.

“Mountain tapir are so rare – in the wild and in human care,” said Phillippi. “Last year, we didn’t know if we’d ever be able to share tapir with our community again. Mochi may be our last chance to inspire people to care for mountain tapir, and we don’t take that lightly.”

Mountain tapir need help, with an estimated 2,500 mountain tapir remaining in the wild habitats of their native Ecuador. Largely due to CMZoo’s Member Conservation Vote, CMZoo and members have contributed more than $135,000 to wild tapir conservation. Many CMZoo staff members have traveled to Ecuador to study and raise local awareness for the rare tapir.

“They’re simply magical animals,” said Phillippi. “Their physical appearances are as unique as their presence, with their prehensile snouts, hooved feet, bear-like ears and fuzzy bodies. If you’ve never seen a tapir in person, you can’t miss the chance to meet Mochi.”

Mochi will be out and about as he chooses while the weather is warm and he continues to settle in. Stop by and visit him in the Mountain Tapir exhibit.

About Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

Cheyenne Mountain Zoological Society was founded in 1926. Today, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, America’s mountain Zoo, offers comprehensive education programs, exciting conservation efforts and truly fantastic animal experiences. In 2023, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo was voted #4 Best Zoo in North America and CMZoo’s Rocky Mountain Wild was named #2 Best Zoo Exhibit in North America by USA TODAY 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards. It is Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s goal to help guests fall in love with animals and nature, and take action to protect them. Since 2008, CMZoo’s Quarters for Conservation program has raised more than $4.5 million dedicated to frontline conservation efforts around the world. Of the 238 zoos and aquariums accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is one of just a few operating without tax support. Cheyenne Mountain Zoo depends on admissions, membership dues, special event attendance and donations for funding.