The if they are not protected.The Malayan tapir

The tapir is a mammal with some very unique features. In this lesson, learn about the five different types of tapirs, and find out about their habitats and physical characteristics.

Strange Animal

Hey! Check that out! Is it an anteater? No, that animal is a tapir! These mammals are often confused with other animals, but they are actually very unique. Tapirs mostly live in the Americas, but also in Asia, and they are most closely related to horses and rhinoceroses. Let’s find out more about these cool creatures.

The tapir is a mammal that is often confused with an anteater.

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Baird’s and Malayan Tapirs

There are five types of tapirs. The light gray Baird’s tapir lives in areas of Mexico and Central America. Like all tapirs, the Baird’s is usually active at night, which means it is nocturnal. It is similar to the other types in that it likes to be away from other animals. It is also one of the endangered types of tapirs.

The Malayan tapir is the largest type, sometimes weighing over 700 pounds! These black and white mammals can be found in areas of Asia, and they are endangered. This means that their population is decreasing and they may become extinct, or no longer exist, if they are not protected.

The Malayan tapir is the largest variety of tapir.


Lowland, Mountain, and Kabomani Tapirs

Check out that shy pony hanging out in the woods of South America! Wait, that’s not a pony. That’s the lowland tapir. It is different from the other four because it has a mane of hair, which makes it look similar to a small horse. This type of tapir is the only kind that is not endangered.

It is considered vulnerable, which means that if it is not protected it could become endangered like the other types of tapirs.Can you guess where the mountain tapir lives? That’s right, the mountains, the Andes Mountains of South America. It has a dark gray color with a distinctive white area around its lips. This type of tapir is well-suited for living in the mountains, because it actually becomes more active during cooler temperatures.The smallest of all the tapirs, the Kabomani tapir, was just recognized as its own species in 2013. It lives in Amazon forests and grassy areas.

It is not officially classified, but is likely endangered.

Physical Characteristics

Tapir babies have stripes and spots on their bodies. As they get older, those markings fade and they develop adult coloring. Tapirs are known for several unique physical characteristics.

They have feet with hooves, which help them to walk along rough and rocky ground. They also have very tough skin, which can be useful when they are in areas with lots of branches.

A baby tapir, with white spots and stripes

How would you like to have a built-in snorkel on your body? That’s exactly what the tapir has. Their large nose is perfect for swimming, because they can lift it up and breathe while they are underwater.

It is also helpful for gathering food along the ground.

Habitat and Diet

Even though all five types live in different areas of the world, they all enjoy hanging out in forests. This habitat provides a good source of food for tapirs, which are herbivores. That means that they eat only plants, and not other animals. Tapirs enjoy munching on leaves, twigs, and fruits.

Tapirs are endangered or vulnerable because their forest homes are often being destroyed due to human development. They are also often hunted by predators like pumas, jaguars, and even humans.

Lesson Summary

There are five types of tapirs, three of which are officially endangered. These mammals are nocturnal, and they have distinctive snouts, hooves, and tough skins.

Tapirs like to be by themselves, and they are herbivores that live in forest areas.


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