THE SPECIES

Tapirus pinchaque

We present a synthesis of the available information about different aspects of natural history of the mountain tapir that have been compiled from different sources. We expect to continually add new information as new knowledge about the species is available through research.

Photos ©2017 Fondation Segré World Tapir Conservation Programme

MORPHOLOGY

The mountain tapir is a medium-sized wild ungulate, which can weigh up to 150 kg and reach a length of 215 cm and a height of 90 cm. It is characterized by its dense fur that protects it from the low temperatures and cold humidity of the high mountain ecosystems where it lives. Its body is rounded and pointed, which allows it to move easily through the dense vegetation that characterizes the high Andean forests and paramos.

Its legs are relatively short and thick, giving it great strength for its movements. Its legs end in pointed hooves, three in the back and four in the front. The configuration of its hoofs makes it easy to move in swampy and steep areas in the forest and in open areas covered by paramo vegetation and generally soft soil. The hoofs surround the plant of the leg, which is padded.

Its head is proportionally large and ends in a muscular trunk which it uses both to sniff and to manipulate the branches of shrubs and other plants that are part of its diet. Its teeth are specially adapted to pull out tender shoots and crush the fibers of the plants it consumes, which are however not chewed, but swallowed almost whole. Its digestive system is monogastric, which means that digestion depends largely on the microorganisms that live in the huge cecum of its intestines.

Mountain tapirs have a highly developed sense of smell, largely thanks to their muscular trunk, which they can also use as a snorkel when they are threatened and find a body of water to dive into. On the other hand, their sight is poor and they depend more on their sense of hearing to detect potential dangers or to communicate with their fellow creatures.

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