A Malayan Tapir calf, named Solo, has taken his first steps outside at Chester Zoo.
Solo, born July 11, was named after the longest river on the Indonesian island of Java. Zoo staff reports that he ‘reveled’ in his very first outdoor adventure, under the watchful eyes of his mum Margery.
The youngster, who is the first of his species to ever be born at the Zoo, paraded around showing off his dark brown coat covered in white spots and stripes. Juvenile Malayan Tapirs lose those patterns in the first year of their life and develop their adult coats, with one half of their bodies black and the other half white.
Chester Zoo is part of a European breeding programme for this endangered species. Keepers at the zoo say Solo’s arrival is hugely significant, as he will add valuable genetics to the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP), which is working to ensure a safety net population of Malayan Tapirs in zoos, ensuring they do not go extinct.
The Malayan Tapir (Tapirus indicus), also known as the Asian Tapir, is the largest of four Tapir species and is the only Old World Tapir. They are native to the rainforests of Burma, Malaysia, Sumatra and Thailand. Their noses and upper lips are extended to form a prehensile proboscis, which they use to grab leaves. Tapirs normally measure 1.8 to 2.5m (6 to 8 feet) in length, with a shoulder height of 0.9 to 1.1m. (3 to 3.5 feet).
The animals are related to both the Horse and the Rhinoceros. They are an ‘odd-toed’ animal, having four toes on each front foot and three toes on each back foot.
Malayan Tapirs also have poor eyesight, which makes them rely heavily on their excellent senses of smell and hearing.
They are also known for their unusual courtship ritual, which involves an assortment of wheezing and whistling sounds. They will sniff each other, walking around in circles before mating. Females have a long gestation period of 13 months before giving birth to a single calf.
Listed as “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List, the Malayan Tapir is increasingly threatened, with population numbers continuing to decline as a result of habitat loss and fragmentation, as well as increasing hunting pressure. The population has been estimated to have declined by more than 50% in the last three generations (36 years) primarily as a result of Tapir habitat being converted into palm oil plantations. They are also threatened by increased hunting for their fur, road-kills and trapping in snares left for other animals.
More pics, below the fold!