The Baird’s tapir is listed as an endangered species on the IUCN Red List, with less than 5,500 animals left in the wild. As a result of habitat loss induced by logging and land clearing for agriculture, the animal population has decreased by over 50 percent in the past three decades.
Tapirs have a slow reproduction rate, which is why the recent birth of a baby tapir at the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans is such good news for the animal’s conservation efforts. The calf is part of an international breeding program at the zoo aiming to rebound the endangered species’ population.
The newborn is the offspring of the zoo’s three-year-old Baird’s tapir, Ixchel, which gave birth earlier this month. Ixchel became part of the Audubon Zoo in 2019 as part of an Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan.
In addition to increasing its population numbers, the baby tapir will also serve another purpose — raising awareness about the existential threat the mammal is facing, by serving as an ambassador at the zoo and helping teach guests about the plight of this species in the wild. On top of being threatened by loss of habitat, tapirs are also hunted for food and sport.
“This is a significant birth, because the Baird’s tapir is an endangered species that is found primarily through parts of Mexico, through Columbia,” said Bob Lessnau, Vice President at the zoo. “They are basically facing deforestation and hunting pressures that are making the population numbers dwindle a bit.”