World Tapir Day: Baird's Tapir
Baird's Tapir: Range Blue - confirmed; yellow - unconfirmed; red - locally extinct (source Wikipedia)
The Baird's tapir, Tapirus bairdii, is the largest land mammal in Central America. It is named for the American naturalist Spencer Fullerton Baird, who observed the animals in Mexico in 1843.
The Baird's tapir is dark brown with a distinctive cream-colored marking on its face and throat and a dark spot on each cheek, behind and below the eye. They have have a stubby, vestigial tail, and like all other species of tapir, have a flexible proboscis and four hooves on front feet and three hooves on rear feet.
It is the largest of the three American species and the largest native land mammal in both Central and South America. Baird's tapirs average 2m in length but can range between 1.8 and 2.5m. They are generally between 73–120cm in height. Adult Baird's tapirs range between 150 and 400 kilograms.
The Baird's tapir was once abundant throughout Central America, ranging from southeast Mexico to Panama and northwest Colombia. It is now extinct in parts of its former range, such as in El Salvador, surviving in relatively small numbers in pockets of remaining habitat in Colombia,, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama and possibly Ecuador.
In 2002, the IUCN reclassified the Baird's tapir as Endangered due to an ongoing and presumed future decline estimated from loss of habitat, fragmentation and hunting pressure. It estimates that population declines are greater than 50% in the past 3 generation (33 years) and suspected to be greater than 50% decline in the next 3 generations (33 years). In addition, there is evidence to suggest that infectious diseases may contribute to the decline of the species in the future as cases are now being found in the northern portion of the range where cattle are present.
The current overall population estimate for this species is under 5,000 mature individuals. Extensive habitat change is severely impacting and fragmenting viable populations. It has been estimated that around 70% of Central American forest areas have been lost through deforestation and alteration over the last 50 years. This habitat fragmentation, in conjunction with hunting and cattle grazing pressures, will further increase pressure on the survival of Baird's tapirs in the wild.
Sources and further information