BAIRD'S TAPIR SPECIES PROFILE
The genus Tapirus has four extant species; three
Neotropical species: Baird’s tapir (Tapirus bairdii) in Central America, the
mountain tapir (T. pinchaque) in the Andes’
central mountains, and the lowland tapir (T.
terrestris) occupying the widest distribution, from Venezuela to northern
Argentina, and from the Brazilian Atlantic forest to the Ecuadorian sub-Andean foothills. The
Malay tapir (T. indicus) is found in South
"Tapirus terrestris". Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5
via Wikimedia Commons -
Tapirs originated 50
million years ago and have chnage little in appearance in the last 35 million years. The
genus Tapirus can be traced back to at least 8 million years ago. Prehistoric tapirs
inhabited Europe, North America and south-east Asia. Tapirs are odd-toed ungulates,
a group that also includes rhinos and horses, with tapirs most closely related to
"Bairds-Tapir-Foot" by Bjørn
Christian Tørrissen - Own work by uploader, http://bjornfree.com/galleries.html. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
via Wikimedia Commons -
Of the four tapir species which
survive today, three were found in Central America and two migrated to South
America across the Panamanian Land Bridge 2 to 3 million years ago. The fourth species, the
Malayan tapir, remains in south-east Asia.
"Central American Tapir-Belize20". Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia
Baird’s tapirs weigh 150-320
kg, have a shoulder height of 73-120 cm, head and body length of 80-250 cm, and a tail length
of 5-13 cm. The proboscis probably did not develop until the last few million
tapir was once abundant throughout Central America, from southeast
Mexico to Panama and northwest Colombia. It is now extinct in parts of its former range (e.g.
El Salvador) and persists in relatively small numbers in pockets of remaining habitat in
Colombia, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Panama. Baird's
tapir is locally abundant in some regions of Belize.
Fewer than 5,000.
Classified as Endangered (EN A2abcd+3bce) on the
2010 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, and listed on Appendix I of
They is generally found in humid habitats, from sea
level to 3,600 m. Baird's tapirs inhabit a
wide variety of habitats, including tropical
forests, woodlands, grasslands and marshes. The main requirement appears to be a permanent water
tapirs are shy, quiet animals that
generally shelter in forests or thickets during the day. They emerge at night to browse in
forest clearings on a variety of leaves, twigs, fruit and seeds. Tapirs possess
micro-organisms in their guts to digest plant material, and they must eat a large amount of
food daily. They are very agile, moving well in both closed and open habitats, and negotiate
steep slopes with ease. They are able swimmers and frequently wallow in streams or rivers
during the day. When disturbed they often seek cover
tapirs are thought to
live alone or in small family groups, and maintain partially overlapping home ranges. They
regularly mark thier tracks with urine and also communicate by emitting shrill whistling
Births occur throughout the year, with the
females generally giving birth to a single, or occasionally two, young after a 13 month gestation
period; young tapirs stay with their mother for up to 2 years.
The main threats
Baird's tapirs are from habitat destruction and hunting. Around 70% of Central American forests have beendeforestated
or alterated over the last 40 years, with almost all forest
cleared in El Salvador, in contrast to Belize which
still retains 70% forest.The low reproductive rate
Baird's tapirsmeans that they are particularly vulnerable to hunting.
protected throughout their range in Belize, and are the national animal of Belize. However,
hunting laws are poorly enforced in some areas. Conservation efforts should focus on maintaining the species' habitat and
preventing hunting. There is some evidence to suggest that tapirs may be able to withstand
selective logging in certain areas.
The IUCN/SSC Tapir Specialist Group Action Plan
recommendations include carrying out surveys to determine the status and location of remaining
populations, the protection of habitat, and the monitoring and regulation of hunting.
The Tapir Preservation Fund was established in
1996 to promote tapir research and conservation. This organisation, together with the IUCN/SSC
Tapir Specialist Group (TSG) and several American and European zoos, is working on developing
and implementing tapir research, conservation and management programmes.
Brooks, D. M., Bodmer, R. E. and Matola, S. 1997.
Tapirs - Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. (English, Spanish, Portuguese) IUCN/SSC Tapir
Specialist Group. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK. Nowak, R. M. 1999. Walker’s Mammals
of the World. Sixth edition. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London.
Castellanos, A., Foerester, C., Lizcano, D.J.,
Naranjo, E., Cruz-Aldan, E., Lira-Torres, I., Samudio, R., Matola, S., Schipper, J. &
Gonzalez-Maya. J. 2008. Tapirus bairdii. In: 2010 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version
2010.4. Downloaded on 12 November 2010.