It’s a boy! Endangered tapir gives birth at Tacoma zoo

Tacoma’s Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium has a new resident.

The zoo’s female endangered Malayan tapir, Yuna, gave birth to a male baby July 12.

Tapirs are large herbivores that look similar to a pig with a short trunk. It’s estimated that there are about 2,500 left in Thailand, Malaysia and Sumatra, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

The young male is currently brown and spotted, camouflage that allows him to hide from predators. In a year or so, he will look like a smaller, typical black-and-white tapir.

Yuna and the zoo’s other tapir, a male named Baku, also 5, were introduced in spring 2018, even though both have been with Point Defiance Zoo for some time. Baku arrived in 2015 from the Denver Zoo and Yuna arrived a year later from Mexico.

The baby tapir will be kept out of public view in a bedroom in the Asian Forest Sanctuary while the he nurses and gets his bearings.

The calf was not weighed after he was born but now weighs about 25 pounds.

Telena Welsh, the zoo’s lead keeper in the Asian Forest Sanctuary, said one of the reasons the birth is important is because there are fewer than 50 tapirs in zoos in the United States.

“They’re an endangered species and we want to make sure to support the wild counterparts as much as possible,” Welsh said.

Welsh said the calf is doing well and was up and walking within the first couple of hours of being born. He’s now at the point where he wobbles a little when he walks but already follows his mom and investigates his surroundings.

Although he’s doing well, Welsh said the first few weeks are critical. She said most zoos wait about a month until moving them to the public enclosure, and they will most likely do the same.

The zoo will hold a public poll to vote on the new tapir’s name.

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