Baird's tapir is the largest terrestrial mammal in Central America.
An adult tapir can weigh from 150-300 kg! These strange-looking
creatures are, in fact, most closely related to horses and rhinos.
Tapirs are well adapted to life in the forest. In fact, their short
powerful legs are suited to rapid movement through dense underbrush
and, in the forest, allow a tapir to run as fast as a human.
The shy, silent, and rarely seen tapir spends most of its time
foraging in the forest for leaves, fruits and seeds. To do this, a
tapir uses its elongated upper lip, called a proboscis. This
flexible trunk of the tapir serves to shovel food into the mouth and
gather leaves from places that the animal's tongue and teeth cannot
reach. When alarmed, the tapir will often head directly for water
and dive below surface, using their flexible trunk as a snorkel.
Unfortunately, the tapir, like many Costa Rican mammals, is
endangered due to habitat destruction and fragmentation.
photo M. Noonan