The Baird's Tapir is the largest land animal from Mexico to northern South America. It's not easy to be the biggest animal in the rainforest. Rainforests have LOTS of mud, and when you weigh 600 pounds (270 kg), you can really get stuck! Being so big, they don’t like the hot weather and during the dry season they sleep in the mud or the water. They also walk more in the cool of the night than during the hot daytime.
The local names for the Tapir are "Mountain Cow" and Danto. Mountain cows are herbivores, so as they move about they only eat foods from plants like leaves, small branches, and fruits. Sometimes when they eat the fruits of palms and trees they swallow the whole seed. Then as they travel around the forest and the swamp they help to reforest the area by dropping these seeds in their droppings. Mountain cows usually only have a single young-one per year. The baby is speckled and stays with its mother for one to two years before heading off on its own. There is a lot that scientists do not know about mountain cows because they are scarce and very shy, especially in areas where people hunt them for food.
Research on Baird's Tapir in Nicaragua
The research being done by the authors of the Virtual Rainforest (Dr. Gerald Urquhart and Christopher Jordan) has revealed new scientific insights about Baird's Tapirs. We use camera traps to take photos of wild animals in Nicaragua. Before our project, some scientists thought that Baird's Tapirs were extinct on the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua.
Our research has shown with photos like the one above and through finding Tapir tracks in the mud that the Baird's Tapir is NOT EXTINCT on the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua.
Our findings will better inform the scientists and managers who are trying to conserve Baird's Tapirs. Our work is showing the opposite of what people thought was true. Instead of being extinct, there is a small but thriving population of Baird's Tapirs in our region.
Copyright Gerald R. Urquhart
Michigan State University
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