What’s a tapir, anyway? 9 Fun Facts to Celebrate World Tapir Day

It’s World Tapir Day! Wahoo! (“Yay! Wait, what’s a tapir?”)

These guys aren’t quite as well-known as most other species, but I happen to think they’re quite lovely and endearing:

Tapirs look something like a mix between a pig, an anteater, and a hippo, but they’re actually most closely related to horses and rhinos. They’re short and rotund with stubby little legs, hooved toes (4 on each front foot, 3 on each back foot), and an adorably floppy prehensile snout. Aw!

Since they’re not very well known, I thought I would share a few fun facts. Be sure to remember all of them so you can impress your friends later.

1. They communicate with high pitched whistles.


2. They’re herbivores

Using their prehensile snouts (a fusion of their nose and upper lip), they can pull leaves and fruits off of branches and aquatic vegetation off the bottom of watering holes. Nom nom.

3. They love the water

They’re proficient swimmers and can even use their snouts as snorkels!

4. There are 4 living species

You can find the majority of them in the tropics of Asia and Central and South America. Only one species lives outside of the tropics, the woolly tapir of the Andes mountains.

5. They’re considered a living fossil

They’re the most primitive large mammals in the world and have remained relatively unchanged for tens of millions of years.

6. The planet needs them

The forest ecosystems that tapirs inhabit couldn’t function without them. Known as the “gardeners of the forest,” these peculiar creatures disperse and fertilize seeds all over the forest. Seeds that otherwise wouldn’t be able to grow can easily germinate in their dung! Lovely, eh?

“I shall grow a forest with my poo!”

7. They’re kind of hilarious

This isn’t really a fact, but everyone needs to know.

7. They’re large

Tapirs can weigh over 800 pounds and are South America’s largest native land mammal.

8. They have a relatively long life span

They live an average of 25 to 30 years.

9. They’re facing extinction

You guessed it, all species of tapir are listed as either vulnerable or endangered. Humans are destroying their only habitat with illegal logging, farming, and poaching.

How you can help

  • Spread the word! Share images and videos on social media. Tapirs are not very well known. The more the world loves and appreciates a species, the better they will be protected. We protect what we love!
  • Support and/or become involved with tapir research by following the Tapir Specialist Group on Facebook or visiting their website.
  • As always, support the planet by reducing your plastics and being a responsible consumer and traveler.

Thank you for doing your part to learn about and protect this unique species!

Featured image: Eric Kilby/Flickr

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