A tapir at Chester Zoo has given birth to a healthy male calf – the first to ever be born at the zoo.
The rare Malayan tapir, an endangered species, arrived to first time parents Margery and Betong.
Fewer than 2,500 Malayan tapirs are now thought to exist in the forests and rainforests of their native South East Asia, largely due to the destruction of their habitat.
Zookeepers say the week-old calf, which has been named Solo after the longest river on the Indonesian island of Java, is ‘doing well’.
Baby tapirs are born with a dark brown coat covered in white spots and stripes to help provide camouflage against the forest floor. They lose those patterns in the first year of their life and develop their adult coats, with one half of their bodies black and the other half white.
Assistant curator of mammals at Chester Zoo Dr Nick Davis said: “Mum Margery performed a really smooth delivery and she’s doing excellently up to now, particularly with this being her first calf. We’ve witnessed Solo nursing for up to 20 minutes at a time and, although he’s still a little shaky on his little legs, he is doing well so far.
“It was a 13-month-long gestation for Margery and so we’ve waited a long time for this pitter patter of tiny, spotty feet!
“This birth is very significant; a real achievement for our keepers given it’s a first for the zoo and important for the species as a whole. Once Solo is old enough, he will add valuable genetics to the European endangered species breeding programme which is working to ensure a viable safety net population of Malayan tapirs, ensuring they do not go extinct.”
The Malayan tapir population in the wild is estimated to have declined by more than 50% in the last 36 years, driven primarily by the wide-scale conversion of their habitat to palm oil plantations and agricultural land.
As a result, they are listed as an endangered species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and are also threatened by increased hunting for their fur, road-kills and trapping in snares left for other animals.
They are the largest of the world’s four tapir species and related to both the horse and the rhinoceros. They are an ‘odd-toed’ animal, having four toes on each front foot and three toes on each back foot.