Mountain Tapir Fact File

Tapirus pinchaque

Credit: Brocken Inaglory, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Weight

160-200kg

(330-440lbs)

Length

1.8-2m

(6-6.5ft)

Lifespan

Wild 30 years

Captive 30 years

Diet

Herbivores

Fruits, Twigs, Leaves

Conservation Status

IUCN

Endangered

The Floofiest Tapir!

Mountain tapirs are well adapted for life at high altitudes. They are covered by a thick coat of fur which helps to insulate against the intense cold.

As with all tapirs they are fitted with a flexible proboscis, a short trunk, which can be used to help them breath when they swim. They swim regularly to help cool down their body.

At birth the young are covered with a pattern of light stripes which help to camouflage them with the dappled sunlight found on the forest floor in their habitat.

They are threatened by habitat loss for increased farming and hunting.

Read on to learn more about these magnificent mammals.

Appearance

What does the Mountain Tapir look like?

The mountain tapir is covered by a coat of thick fur which can be between 3 and 4cm (1.25-1.5in) long. Across most of their body this fur is colored black or dark brown. Around the mouth is a ring of white fur and the ear tips are also white. On their rear are two notable patches which are bare of fur.


Like all tapirs they have a short trunk which can be used to breathe when in the water. This snout is considered prehensile and can be moved in any direction.


The iris of the mountain tapirs eye is colored brown in most individuals but can turn blue in some. This bluish color has been found to result from excessive exposure to light.


At the end of their body is a short, thick tail.


This is the second smallest of the five recognized tapir species following the discovery of the Kombani tapir in 2013.


An average length for this species is between 1.8 and 2m (6 to 6.5ft) long. They have an average weight of between 160 and 200kg (330-440lbs). At the shoulder they stand 0.9m (3ft) tall.

Adaptations

How does the Mountain Tapir survive in its habitat?


This species has short, stocky legs. These are tipped with splayed toes that help to carry them across steep slopes and move them through dense undergrowth. On the front foot they have four toes and on the back foot they have three.


Along with their thick outer layer of fur they also have a thick undercoat. This helps to keep them warm during the cold nights in the mountains.


The eyesight of the mountain tapir is poor and as a result they rely on their keen sense of smell to guide them through the forest.

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Diet

What does the Mountain Tapir eat?

Mountain tapirs are herbivores. Their diet includes a range of twigs, leaves and fruit. These are taken from a variety of different plants.


They play an important role in their ecosystem as a seed disperser.


To protect their skin from attacks by insects this species will wallow in mud.

Learn more about the Mountain Tapir in this video from Cheyenne Mountain Zoo on YouTube

Range

Where do you find the Mountain Tapir?

South America is the native home of the mountain tapir. Here they can be found in Colombia and Ecuador. Their range may also extend to northern Peru.


Historical records exist of the species from Venezuela but the validity of these is unclear.

Habitat

Where can the Mountain Tapir survive?

This species is known from forest and grassland areas.

Mountain Tapir (Tapirus pinchaque)

Credit: David Sifry, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Reproduction

How does the Mountain Tapir produce its young?

Breeding can take place year round. Males will fight one another for breeding rights with the females.

During mating the male and female will bite at one another’s sides, feet and ears.

A single calf will be born at the conclusion of the 13 month gestation period. They are provided milk by their mother for the first six months of life.

The young of this species is often referred to as a watermelon due to the pattern of light stripes which sit on a dark background. This acts as camouflage and blends in with the dappled sunlight low to the ground where they live.


By a year old the coat of the mountain tapir calf has begun to transition to that of the adults.


Calves separate from their mother after a year.


Sexual maturity is reached by two years old.

Behavior

What does the Mountain Tapir do during its day?

Mountain tapirs are active during the night. This species will seek shelter within thickets during the day.


These animals are able swimmers and will use their short trunk like a snorkel to allow them to breathe while moving through the water.


The call of the mountain tapir is a birdsong-like whistle which is used to communicate with other species of tapir.


This species is typically solitary and typically only a mother and her young will be seen together. Rarely pairs have been seen to mate for life. If two meet they become aggressive and will bare their teeth at one another.

Mountain Tapir (Tapirus pinchaque)

Credit: Jean from Shelbyville, KY, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Predators and Threats

What stops the Mountain Tapir from surviving and thriving?

Natural predators of the mountain tapir include spectacled bears and mountain lions.


As few as 2,500 of these animals are thought to remain in the wild and the population is continuing to decline.


This is primarily driven by habitat loss. Their range takes in a number of areas being targeted for increased poppy farming. Ranching also uses a significant area in their range.


Hunting was a major threat to this species for a number of years but increased awareness of the threats they face has helped to reduce this in recent years.

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Quick facts

They are also known as the Andean or the wooly tapir.

Their scientific name is taken from ‘La Pinchaque,’ an imaginary beast which is said to live in the same area as the tapirs.

The word tapir is taken from a Tupi Indian word, ‘tapyra.’

Tapirs are believed to have been on Earth for 20 million years during which time they have changed very little.

This species was first classified for western science during 1829.

Mountain Tapir (Tapirus pinchaque)

Credit: Rennett Stowe from USA, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

References

World Tapir Day. 2022. Mountain Tapir. [online] Available at: <https://www.tapirday.org/mountain-tapir.html> [Accessed 30 March 2022].

EDGE of Existence. 2022. Mountain Tapir – EDGE of Existence. [online] Available at: <http://www.edgeofexistence.org/species/mountain-tapir/> [Accessed 30 March 2022].

Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens (LA Zoo). 2022. Mountain Tapir – Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens (LA Zoo). [online] Available at: <https://www.lazoo.org/explore-your-zoo/our-animals/mammals/tapir-mountain/> [Accessed 30 March 2022].

World Land Trust. 2022. Mountain Tapir: Species in World Land Trust reserves. [online] Available at: <https://www.worldlandtrust.org/species/mammals/mountain-tapir/> [Accessed 30 March 2022].

Animals.sandiegozoo.org. 2022. Tapir | San Diego Zoo Animals & Plants. [online] Available at: <https://animals.sandiegozoo.org/animals/tapir> [Accessed 30 March 2022].

Nechvatal, N. 2001. “Tapirus pinchaque” (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed March 30, 2022 at https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Tapirus_pinchaque/

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