An endangered female Baird’s Tapir was born on February 17 at the Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society in Florida, the zoo’s first birth of 2014. The calf was named Luna in a naming contest at nearby Palmetto Elementary School.
Jan Steele, General Curator for the Zoo, said from its birth, the calf has been in good health, and has been gaining weight at a steady rate. “At first, we monitored the calf, but gave Alyssa [the tapir mom] space to strengthen her bond with her baby.”
Zoo keepers had been studying methods to increase the likelihood that Alyssa would accept this calf, and had given her “scratch-downs” which calmed her and allowed multiple ultrasounds that showed the calf’s progress before it was born.
The calf’s weight was 40.5 pounds on March 7, when she was seventeen days old. Zoo keepers said the calf is on target to double in weight within her first three to four weeks of life, as Tapirs are expected to do.
The Tapir calf received her first neonatal exam on February 25, in which she received antibiotic and vitamin shots. She has begun exploring the Tapir habitat on exhibit at the Zoo, delighting guests with her adventures. She eats a pelleted diet along with banana and sweet potatoes. Using bananas as a reward, zoo keepers have already trained her to step on a scale to be weighed.
Baird’s Tapirs are native to Central America and northern South America, and are one of four Latin American species of Tapir. For the first week of their lives, infant Baird’s Tapirs are hidden in secluded locations while their mothers forage for food and return periodically to nurse them.
Baird’s Tapirs are in danger of extinction, and were officially classified as Vulnerable according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Any Tapir birth is critical, especially because their reproductive rate is slow.