Photo Gallery | Zoo welcomes new resident
Riverbanks Zoo and Garden is once again home to a Malayan tapir, an original member of the Zoo’s animal collection when the park opened in 1974.
With their flexible, elongated snouts, Malayan tapirs are sometimes mistaken for pigs or anteaters, but these extraordinary creatures are most closely related to horses and rhinos. Besides their protruding trunk, another eye-catching characteristic is the light-colored patch of hair that extends from the animal’s shoulders to its rear on its otherwise dark body.
Daniella, 16, came to Riverbanks from the Bronx Zoo, her home since the age of one. She was born at Zoo Miami in July of 1996.
“We are excited to bring this unique species back to Riverbanks,” said John Davis, curator of mammals at Riverbanks Zoo and Garden. “We hope that Zoo guests will enjoy learning about Daniella and all tapirs in general.”
Of the four species of tapir, Malayans are the largest and most powerful—many weighing more than 700 pounds. Riverbanks has also been home to Baird’s tapirs. The other two species are Brazilian and mountain tapirs, all of which inhabit jungle and forest regions of Central America, South America and Southeast Asia.
Tapirs spend much of their time in the wild looking for food, eating a variety of fruits and plants. In addition, tapirs are gifted swimmers; and although commonly found in wooded areas, those with access to rivers are likely to be in the water feeding on vegetation, hiding from predators or just cooling off.
“Tapirs also have interesting ways of communicating,” said Davis. “One of the most common is a high-pitched whistle that almost sounds like screeching car breaks.” Another type of tapir talk is snorting and stomping—typical actions when the animals are preparing to defend themselves.
On average, tapirs live to be 25 to 30 years old. Tapir populations in the wild, however, are decreasing mainly due to hunting and habitat destruction. All tapir species are now considered either endangered or vulnerable.
Daniella can be seen on exhibit daily near the Zoo’s Galapagos tortoise yard.