Thursday, January 9, 2014

Little Black Tapir Discovered

It’s already being hailed as one of the biggest animal discoveries of the twenty-first century; scientists have confirmed the discovery of a previously unknown tapir living in the Amazon in Brazil and Columbia.

tapirpairThe mammal is one of the biggest animals on the continent. Although scientists have only just ‘discovered’ it, local native tribes have long known about the tapir.

Tapirs are large mammals, similar in shape to pigs. They have short, prehensile snouts and inhabit forest and jungle regions. There are five known species of tapir living in Southeast Asia and South & Central America. Of these species, four are listed as endangered and/or vulnerable. Little is known yet about the newest tapir, dubbed “Tapirus kabomani,” but it is suspected the animal will be listed as endangered since it appears to be very scarce.

The last discovery of a Tapir was in 1865 and the last discovery of a large land mammal was in 1992 when scientists found the saola in Vietnam.

Paleontologist Mario Cozzuol first started investigating the species ten years ago. According to Cozzuol, native people were the key to learning about the tapir:

“Knowledge of the local community needs to be taken into account and that’s what we did in our study, which culminated in the discovery of a new species to science.”

Tapirs have been around for fifty million years and are considered living fossils since they have changed very little. They are mostly nocturnal animals and spend most of their waking hours foraging. Their diet consists of berries, fruits and leaves. Tapirus Kabomani is the smallest living tapir with adults weighing in at around 240 pounds. Local tribes call the animal the “little black tapir.”

Scientists are now working to determine the actual distribution of the new species. The region of the Amazon where the tapir was discovered is undergoing massive deforestation and building projects including roads and a pair of large dams. As a result, critical habitat is being lost at a rapid pace and conservationists are hard at work in hopes of saving endangered animals.

These calm creatures have been hunted to near extinction in many regions.
In Asia, there are numerous cultural references to the tapir. In China and Japan, tapirs are believed to have the ability to eat people’s nightmares.   Hopefully, conservationists can save the tapirs from the nightmare of extinction.

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