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Baird's tapirBaird's tapir Tapirs are bulky mammals with trunk-like snouts that live in the rainforests of Central and South America and Southeast Asia. They are odd-toed ungulates, the group of plant-eating mammals that includes horses and rhinoceroses. There are five species: the Brazilian, Malayan, Baird's, kabomani and mountain tapir. Tapirs average about 2 metres (6.6 feet) in length and 1 metre (3 feet) in height. Their hooves are splayed (split and spread out), which helps them to walk on the soft rainforest floor. They have thick skin on the backs of their necks to protect them from predators such as jaguars and crocodiles.

Brazilian tapir in the Pantanal wetlandsBrazilian tapir in the Pantanal wetlands

Mountain tapir feedingMountain tapir feeding


Excellent swimmers, tapirs spend a lot of time in the water. They wallow in rainforest rivers and streams to cool off or dive feed on water plants. Their trunk-like snouts—extensions of the nose and upper lip—are perfect for gripping and plucking leaves or fruit from branches. They are mainly active at night, emerging to feed around dusk. Tapirs are solitary creatures; they usually travel alone through the rainforest along well-worn paths they have themselves created.

About 2 m (6.6 ft) in length, the Baird’s tapir is the largest land mammal of Central and South America.

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