South American Tapir, Tapirus terrestris

The South American Tapir (Tapirus terrestris) is also known as the lowland tapir or the Brazilian tapir. It is one of four species of tapir and is the second largest land mammal in South America. This tapir can be found living near a water source in River Basin east of the Andes and the Amazon Rainforest. Its northern range includes Venezuela, Columbia, and the Guianas, extending south to Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay. The western range of the South American tapir includes Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador.

The South American tapir can reach a length of 5.9 to 8.2 feet, with a tail length of up to 3.9 inches. The average weight of this tapir varies with age, but adults can weigh between 330 to 710 pounds. It is dark brown in color and has short brown ears, with distinct white edges. There is a stiff ridge running down its back.

Mating season for these tapirs occurs between the months of April to June, and females will usually have one baby every two years. Born at fifteen pounds, baby tapirs will grow quickly and are weaned at approximately six months. These tapirs are herbivores, and will typically eat shoots, leaves, bulbs, small branches from trees, fruits, aquatic plants, and grasses.

The South American tapir is skilled at swimming, diving, and moving about on land. When frightened, it is known to flee into the water.  Predators of this tapir include large mammals such as cougars and jaguars, which often attack the tapirs at night when they are sleeping and unable to make it to water for safety. However, two species of crocodiles are its main prey: black caiman and Orinoco crocodile. These are the only crocodiles large enough to attack the sizable tapirs, but the Orinoco crocodile is endangered. The South American Tapir can live to be thirty years old.

Due to large amounts of poaching and habitat loss, the IUCN gave the South American Tapir a status of vulnerable on its red list. However, it has less of a risk of extinction as the other three members of its tapir genus.

Image Caption: South American Tapir, Tapirus terrestris. Credit: Whaldener Endo/Wikipedia(CC BY-SA 2.5)