22 July 2016
By Bryan T. Smyth
The latest birth at Fota Wildlife Park is a female Brazilian Tapir, born in the park last Tuesday the 12th of July in the early evening. The newborn’s parents Basil (6) and mother Maya (8), along with brother Thiago are all very protective of their new addition to the family
As an odd-toed ungulate the Brazilian Tapir has shared ancestry to a primitive horse and Rhinoceros, the Brazilian Tapir is one of four species of Tapir in the world. It can weigh up to 250 kg, measure two metres in length and has a long, flexible snout that helps in the collection of food.
The name Tapir originates from the Brazilian word for ‘thick’, which is a reference to its tough skin. The Tapir inhabits the rainforests of South America; it is semi-aquatic and will readily take to water to escape from predators such as jaguars, pumas and anacondas.
Lead Warden, Aidan Rafferty has been following the new arrival’s progress carefully and has said ‘Staff here in the park are delighted with the birth of a new little female tapir. Our tapir family has steadily been growing over the last two years and this is Maya’s second calf in as many years. Brazilian lowland tapirs are quite vulnerable in the wild so this birth will hopefully capture people’s attention and help highlight the plight of both wild tapirs and other endangered species worldwide”.
To help gain public interest in this vulnerable species the park is holding a competition to name the new calf after the success of a similar competition last year. The public can enter their suggestions via the parks website, fotawildlife.ie, the winning entry will receive a membership to Fota Wildlife Park for a year.
Apart from its obvious cuteness, this recent arrival also has a striking coat of pale spots and stripes on a reddish brown background which camouflages it in the wild. This has led to baby Tapirs often being described as resembling walking watermelons! This coat fades over time and is totally lost after about a year.