Posted on May 1, 2019
Celebrating World Tapir day in Costa Rica
by Herb DeMars
By Carol Vaughn – April 29, 2019
Saturday was World Tapir Day, a day to celebrate this odd jungle animal, and draw attention to its status as an endangered animal in 2019.
Tapirs are the largest mammals in Central America, with four species of “mountain cows”, with Baird’s Tapir being the one found mostly in Central and South America. These tapirs are found in several Costa Rican national parks, but sadly their numbers are dwindlng. Tapirs are amazing! They aren’t much taller than four feet at their shoulders, but they are rotund, from 240 lbs for the Kabomani Tapir to a whopping 720 lbs or more for the Malayan Tapir. Although they look a bit like pigs, they are in fact related to horses and rhinos. Baird’s Tapirs are medium in size, and are nocturnal animals that hunt for fruits and leaves throughout the night. It is a rare treat to see them.
Here are some cool facts about tapirs.
~ Tapirs have longish snouts that they can use to grasp things, like fruits and tasty leaves. They are good swimmers and use their snouts like snorkels to breathe under water.
~ Tapirs do a very odd thing with their faces. They curl back their lips in a bizarre smile, opening up a pair of ducts in their mouths to taste/smell their surroundings. This is called the flehmen response; cats, giraffes and horses do it also.
~ Baby tapirs are adorable zebra striped and spotted darlings that grow up to be gargantuan grey adults with a Mohawk hairdo.
~ Tapirs have magical poop. They eat virtually everything, especially fruits, then wander the jungle dropping digested fruit seeds as they go, seeding new areas of the jungle floor.
Sadly, tapirs are in peril of extinction in 2019, especially the Baird’s Tapir found in Costa Rica. Their population has more than halved in recent decades, landing them on the Endangered Species list. They have lost much of their natural habitat, have been hunted, and must compete with livestock for food and territory.
Although tapirs are considered gentle creatures, there is a famous case of Costa Rica’s Minister of the Environment and Energy who in 2006 was attacked by a tapir when he ventured off the beaten path in Corcovado Park, wanting to take a closer look at a mother tapir and her calf. Carlos Manuel Rodriguez Echandi was trying to get closer to the the tapirs, stepping off the path to do so, when the mama tapir charged him, knocking him unconscious into a ditch. He claims that the backpack he was wearing saved his life, as the tapir bit it instead of tearing open the back of his neck. When he regained consciousness he realized he was completely lost, and it took him three days to find his way out of the park.
Baird’s Tapirs can be seen – if you’re lucky – in the following national parks: Penas Blancas, Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve, Corcovado, La Selva Biological Station, and La Amistad International Park.
Happy World Tapir Day!!
About the Author :
Category: COSTA RICA LIFESTYLE