All About Mountain Tapir

If you plan to go on a wanderlust tour, learning about the wildlife and area culture is always a good idea. It can help you know what to expect, communicate better, and tour around ethically.

Tropical Andes of South America — is an area known for its rich biodiversity is a haven for those that love seeing nature in its natural form. Starting from the largest mammal found there, read all about Mountain Tapir with us below!  

About Mountain Tapir: What is it?

Prevalent once, Mountain Tapir today is a highly endangered species found in the Tropical Andes of South America. It is the second smallest of 5 existing species today, yet the largest mammal found in the Andes. They belong to the Perissodactyl group, which includes rhinos and horses. It is also known as the Woodley tapir because of its thick fur, colored black or brown. Their mouths and tips of ears are white-colored. These mammals have loose trunk noses that aid them in grasping leaves.

The species is endemic to the Andes mountain of Columbia. A small amount of Tapir is in northern Peru, located in Ecuador. Some claim that they have seen it in some regions of Venezuela. However, no concrete evidence such as pictures or videos is there to confirm such information. Mountain Tapirs prefer the tree moorland high and low-level altitudes. Let us look at its behavior and lifestyle to see if it is a threat to you on your trip!

Behavior and Lifestyle of Mountain Tapir: A Friend or a Foe?

Tapirs perform most of their activities after the sun has set and before it rises. You may see some of them active in the late morning. Others making the most of them prefer to rest in mud, river, and areas of dense vegetation. Under some evidence, Tapirs usually travel in pairs and may unite at the salt licks.

Tapirs communicate with each other by shrill whistles. They urinate on tracks that mark scents around their habitat. They can also navigate their regions and the mountains, which is their habitat. Their sure-footed characteristics help them not to lose their way home. It is hard to spot them, as if they recognize a presence other than their family, they flee toward their places. 

Tapirs feed on leaves, different species of plant, and sometimes twigs. They play an essential part in the ecosystem by dispersing the seeds. Tapirs are herbivores.

As Mountain Tapir spends most of their daytime in the river, they are excellent mammal swimmers. Whenever they fear a predator may hunt them, they dive into the depth of the river. They breathe with the help of their long trunk nose, making it function like a snorkel. 

This set of lifestyle and behaviors may make Tapir seem gentle and meek. However, they are known for their unpredictable behaviors and can attack without any warnings. Their sharp teeth and physique can result in fatal wounds. Therefore, beware and maintain a healthy distance always. Do not picture them with flash cameras or invade their personal space. 

The Mating Season of Mountain Tapir

Tapir does not have a specific mating season, and very little information is available on this subject. According to some studies, the males among the community may fight for a lady showing that polygynous mating systems exist between these mammals.

When a tapir is born, it weighs 5-7 kgs. The mother tapir has to bore the child for 13 months in her womb. The males further do not raise the young, and the newborns end up living with their mother for more than two years. Sometimes the males may help, and lifelong pairs may occur.

Females produce offspring at the beginning of the rainy season. The baby lives in a secluded area for the first week of its existence. During this phase, it starts to act like its mother. Six months are dedicated to nursing the baby. Calves, on the other hand, will stay with their mother for another six months after weaning. The reproductive maturity is achieved in 3 to 4 years.

Population Number and Threats to Them

The mountain tapir is an endangered species(EN). Due to less awareness and environmental degradation, their population keeps decreasing. Mountain tapirs, according to the IUCN, are on the red list. There are fewer than 2,500 mature individuals responsible for the continuity of their species. As Mountain Tapirs are crucial for the biodiversity of the Andes, active efforts are taking place to conserve them. To successfully protect them, one must know the threats that decrease their number. The following are some common ones:

Habitat Destruction

These EN species suffer the most because of habitat destruction. Deforestation occurs at fast rates in tropical mountain forests, also known as cloud forests. People are clearing several tracts of trees for urbanization and development. We are constructing new roads, creating dams, cultivating opium fields, and introducing cattle. The latter itself increases the risk for Tapir to catch diseases. It leads to a high fragmented population which limits their number.

Illegal Hunting 

People living in northern areas hunt tapirs illegally for their benefits.

According to their traditional practices, they hunt Tapir for its meat.

Furthermore, their toes and intestines are used as aphrodisiacs and traditional medicines.

Lack of Awareness & Law

In such areas, people are rarely educated and have no information about laws and the side effects of endangering such species. There is little to no legal system implemented here.

Lack of food

Mountain tapirs suffer to meet their eating requirements due to excessive removal of their habitat. The limited food creates an unpleasant environment and increases predation within their number. Moreover, the introduced livestock makes them suffer due to varieties of diseases contained within it.

Why Are Mountain Tapirs Important?

Mountain tapirs hold an essential role as seed dispersers for a variety of plants in the northern Andes. Furthermore, they help small herbivores within their range by splitting branches with the turning of their trunks.

Some Fun Facts About Mountain Tapirs

  • French naturalist Poulin found and discovered these species on the eastern Andes of Colombia. Later, they were mutually called mountain tapirs. 
  • They have strong smell sensory glands, which allow them to locate and reach the lettuce leaves from yards away.
  • Tapirs hold a strong smell as lettuce crates.
  • Newborn babies are popularly known as striped watermelons on legs.
  • Among fruits, they love to eat bananas.

The Takeaway

Mountain Tapirs are in the Tropical Andes of South America. Although encounters are rare with these species, if you ever come across them, make sure to maintain a safe distance. Mountain Tapir is famous for its unpredictable behavior. It may attack visitors or humans it sees as a threat. With our guide on Tapirs, you now know everything about them. 

The Andes Mountains are amongst the longest mountain ranges of South America. Make sure to check out other ones here. If you are there for camping, do play these games for fun!