Rare tapir calf makes debut at Cambridgeshire zoo

Tapir calf with mother
Image caption The Brazilian tapir calf is yet to be named

A rare tapir calf born at the beginning of June has made its debut with its mother at a zoo in Cambridgeshire.

The new Brazilian tapir calf adds to a European breeding programme for which adults Shannon and Tanya at Linton Zoo have produced 10 other offspring.

That pair of adult tapirs arrived at the zoo themselves as calves in 1990.

Tapirs live naturally in the rain forest but have been declared extinct in much of their habitat because of illegal hunting and forest destruction.

Conserve habitat

"The tapir is a shy creature taking to water when threatened where it is able to stay submerged for hours using its long nose to snorkel until such time it feels it is safe to surface," a zoo spokeswoman said.

"They feed on roots and vegetation but never strip a bush bare of its leaves, zigzagging their way through the undergrowth, conserving the habitat.

"You may be forgiven for thinking that the tapir is some kind of cross between a pig and an elephant but in fact its closest relatives are horses, zebras and rhinos."

The tapirs are dark reddish brown but offspring are covered in white spots and stripes, which they retain until about six months of age.

"This colouring would provide a very efficient camouflage in the dappled shade of the forest," the zoo spokeswoman said.

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