Today’s Factismal: Today is World Tapir Day. Celebrate with a Tapir’s favorite food – a salad with leaves, fruit, and berries!
The tapir is an odd ungulate. Though it looks like a little elephant, it is actually more closely related to the horse and the rhinoceros. Though they used to live throughout Asia, and roamed the Americas from Argentina to Canada, today they are restricted to South and Central America and Malaysia. And though tapirs seem too heavy to swim, they actually enjoy playing in the water and mud.
At one time, there were nine different species of tapir, but today there are only four species remaining. Three of these live in South and Central America: the wooly or mountain tapir, the Brazilian tapir, and Baird’s tapir. As you might guess, the Malayan tapir lives in Malaysia. The other five species of tapir died off at about the end of the last ice age, due to changes in habitat and, more importantly, increased competition from the ultimate apex predator, man.
Though tapirs were hunted by man for food, our impact on them has mostly come about indirectly. Tapirs are fairly shy creatures that need large tracts of open forest to roam in. But those same large tracts of open forest land have been cleared by man for farming and cities, severely restricting the tapir’s range and leading to their inevitable decline in numbers. Today, all four remaining species of tapir are endangered.
If you’d like to learn more about the tapir, then head on over to the World Tapir Day website. And if you’d like to help with efforts to protect the tapir and other endangered animals by working with other citizen scientists to track them remotely in the wild, then why not join WildTrack?