Endangered Species Day – Looking at the Baird’s Tapir

In celebration of Endangered Species Day, we want to introduce you to an endangered species found in our protected areas – the Baird’s Tapir.

Tapir caught on motion-activated camera in the Golden Stream Corridor Preserve

Tapir caught on motion-activated camera in the Golden Stream Corridor Preserve (Photo: Ya'axche)

The Baird’s tapir is a large, herbivorous mammal found in the woodlands of Central America.  It is one of three tapir species found in the Americas (there is an additional species found in Malaysia) and the largest land mammal in Central America.

Tapirs have a distinctive prehensile nose which it uses to pick leaves and fruit.  Because of this appendage they appear to be an odd cross between a pig and an elephant, though they are more closely related to horses and rhinoceroses.

Globally they are considered an endangered species, though their status is a little stronger in Belize.  This is because their main threats – habitat destruction and hunting – are more mild in Belize.  With a relatively low human population and about 40% of its landmass under protection, Belize is better equipped than other Central American nations to maintain the large herbivore.  But that’s not to say more can’t be done.  Ongoing threats to the forests of Belize will continue to affect the tapir as agricultural and commercial logging slowly fragment its natural habitat.

A young Baird's tapir

A young Baird's tapir

Most reports of tapir in our protected areas come from rangers who have either heard an animal at night, or seen fresh tracks in the mornings.  Almost exclusively this happens near rivers and streams.

**  Interestingly, a group of tapir is not called a herd, it is called a candle.

(Baby tapir photo creditvia)

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