June, 2012 – Tapir Birth at the Palm Beach Zoo
Tapir Birth at the Palm Beach Zoo
On March 31st, 2012, the Palm Beach Zoo’s first-ever Baird’s tapir calf (Tapirus bairdii) was born to parents Alyssa and Spencer. The Baird’s
tapir is an endangered species, making this a significant conservation achievement. Unfortunately, shortly after the birth Alyssa began displaying poor maternal behavior and some aggression towards the calf which is not entirely uncommon for first-time mothers. Keith Lovett, Assistant Zoo Director made the decision to pull the calf to the veterinary hospital for hand-rearing. In the 60 days since the birth, the Zoo’s dedicated keeper staff has vigilantly milked Alyssa numerous times each day to provide a natural and nourishing food source to the calf. Today, the once small, weak calf has grown into a robust 30 kg (66 pound) animal. Keepers have also been able to entice the calf to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables that will comprise the majority of his adult diet at the Zoo.
Tapir parents Alyssa and Spencer were brought to the Palm Beach Zoo as a breeding recommendation in April 2003 from the Milwaukee Zoo in Wisconsin and Sedgwick County Zoo in Kansas. After many years of failed introductions, failed breeding attempts, and a revised SSP recommendation for a new breeding male, Zoo staff decided to try one “last” introduction with Alyssa and Spencer. Surprisingly, the tapirs got along well and the rest, as they say, is history. Less than two years later, their first and much-awaited offspring was born.
Baird’s tapirs are native to portions of Mexico and Central America and are listed as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. Their endangered status stems from habitat destruction, fragmentation and hunting. This species is also vulnerable to predation by jaguars and pumas and in more recent years (predominantly in Belize), death by collisions with automobiles.