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Tapir © MNHN - F-G Grandin

The tapir

The South American tapir, Tapirus terrestris, is a vegetarian mammal from the Tapiridae family which lives in the South American rainforest.


Class, order and family :
Mammalia, Perissodactyla, Tapiridae
Life span :
up to 30 years
Size & Weight :
80-110 cm (shoulder height) and 150-225 kg
Gestation period :
12 - 13 months, 1 cub
Natural habitat :
tropical forests, wetlands
Diet :
Native region :
intertropical zone of South America
Conservation programme :
There is a European Endangered Species programme (EEP) for the South American tapir in which the zoo participates.
Statut UICN : 

Vulnerable (VU)


Even though the tapir is the largest mammal in South America, it still has predators – the jaguar and Man himself. To escape them, it dives into the water and swims away. But this means of defence cannot protect it from the threats represented by deforestation and competition with livestock.

Distinctive features

The tapir has a short prehensile trunk which helps it to grab leaves and fruit to feed on. It reminds you of an elephant’s trunk, but the tapir is not related to it. It is the "cousin" of the horse and the rhinoceros.