Posted on April 27, 2014
The official website for World Tapir Day says, “Regardless of whether you are a hardcore tapir fan or whether you have only just discovered the world of tapirs, you will find a wide range of information on this site about World Tapir Day.”
Man! I love writing about holidays and birthdays and such – I am always learning something new! Today I learned here are hardcore tapir fans in the world!!???
Tapirs are mammals, of course, and herbivores (plant eaters). Of all the other mammals alive today, they're most closely related to rhinos.
Tapirs live in rainforests (and sometimes drier sorts of forests) – but in two very far-flung areas of the globe: Central and South America, and Southeast Asia. Why are the different species so isolated from one another? It turns out that tapirs used to live in North America, too, and much of the Northern Hemisphere (Europe and Asia), but they died out in those regions. The populations who had crossed from North America to South America over the Panamanian land bridge (about two million years ago) have flourished more than their northern cousins.
Right now there are five species of tapirs, four of which live in Central and South America.
(As you may have guessed, the people who live in the Brazilian rainforest had long ago “discovered” the kabomani tapir! For one thing, they've been eating it!)
The mountain tapir lives in the high “cloud forests” of the Andes Mountains. This is one of the most endangered tapir species, but they are all under threat because their habitat, the rainforests, is being destroyed or “developed.”
The Baird's tapir is the largest land mammal in Central and South America. It is about six and a half feet long (2 m) and almost four feet high (1.2 m). It weighs from 330 to 880 pounds (150-400 kg).
Gosh, no wonder there are hardcore tapir fans!
I read that the “proboscis” (or snout, or short trunk) only evolved in the past few million years...but that doesn't seem quite right to me since all it is a characteristic of all five species! At any rate, this trunk is very strong yet very flexible—it can move in all directions—and it allows the tapir to grab foliage that is out of range of its mouth.
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