Scientific Name: Tapirus pinchaque
Mountain tapirs live at high elevations and like to dive, swim, and splash in water and wallow in mud.
The mountain tapir is one of four species of tapirs. All the tapirs belong to the same order as horses, zebras, and rhinoceroses. The most important diagnostic characteristic of this group of animals is that they all bear their weight on the central or third digit.
STATUS: As a result of habitat loss to humans and cattle overgrazing, there are only a few thousand mountain tapirs remaining in their range throughout Colombia and Ecuador and a smaller population in Peru. Mountain tapirs continue to decline in population and are are listed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
HABITAT: The mountain tapir lives in the temperate cloud forests and dense sub-tropical regions of the Andes Mountains of northwestern South America. It can be found in Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru at elevations of 6,000 to 13,000 ft.
DIET: Mountain tapirs are browsers and grazers. Some of their favorite foods are aquatic vegetation as well as leaves, twigs, buds, and low-hanging fruit.
PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS: The mountain tapir’s most noticeable feature is its snout and upper lip that project into a short, fleshy proboscis with nostrils at the tip. These animals are about 32 inches high, 6 feet long, and weigh about 485-550 pounds. Their thin skin is protected by dense, fine, long hair.
A baby mountain tapir is dark with yellow and white stripes with a few spots and resembles a watermelon with legs. The markings disappear in six to eight months. In captivity a mountain tapir may live more than 25 years.
Mountain tapirs have a general body form that is tapered in front and rounded in the back. This adaptation makes them well suited for moving quickly through the thick underbrush of sub-tropical mountainsides. As a result, engineers of the past century have constructed roads using the tapirs’ worn paths up the sides of mountains.