Rare Malayan tapir calf makes debut at Minnesota Zoo

A Malayan tapir calf
Minnesota Zoo visitors interested in seeing this endangered Malayan tapir calf should plan to visit between 9 and 10 a.m. The little guy is still getting used to his habitat.
Courtesy Minnesota Zoo

A two-week-old male Malayan tapir was displayed for the first time at the Minnesota Zoo on Wednesday. There are 37 Malayan tapirs in North America, including the zoo's newest calf. He was born July 30.

Tapirs are an endangered species and not commonly found in the wild, according to Tom Ness, the zoo's tropics and trails supervisor. There are only 1,500 to 2,000 Malaysian tapirs in the world, according to the International Union for Conservation. That's fewer than the world's population of tigers.

"Every birth is really important and every animal is really important, and that's why it's such an achievement for the staff here at the zoo," Ness said.

The Malayan tapir's gestation is 13 months long. The last tapir born at the Minnesota Zoo was a female in 2013.

Visitors might miss the new calf if they don't come in the morning. He is in the habitat from 9 to 10 a.m. daily to acclimate. After a few weeks, he will be there for half a day with his mother who, along with zoo staff, is currently teaching him to swim.

"They are bonding very well. It's kind of cute in the morning when they first go out," Ness said.

The calf was apprehensive about entering the new habitat, but after some calls between him and his mother he eventually made his way into his new home.

"They have this little baby squeal. It kind of sounds like a big dog crying," Ness said of the baby's vocalizations.

The calf doesn't have a name yet, but a naming contest to solicit suggestions is on the horizon. Look for details about that in the next week or so on the zoo's website.

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