Baird's Tapir

photo M. Noonan

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

CAC is a program of the Institute for the Study of Human-Animal Relations at Canisius College in Buffalo, NY.