MASAYA, October 7, 2013 (AFP) – Nicaragua is pulling out the stops to try to aid threatened tapirs, an endangered mammal sometimes mistaken for anteaters or tiny hippos.
Experts in Nicaragua say the tapir’s long gestation period, poaching and loss of habitat caused by logging have led to dwindling numbers of the distinct-looking animal.
“The tapir is the most endangered animal right now in Nicaragua, and in the world, because its gestation period is so long — they are pregnant for 400 days — so they are dying out,” Eduardo Sacasa, a veterinarian in charge of Nicaragua’s National Zoo tapir project, told AFP.
At home in forests of Central and South America, and Southeast Asia, tapirs have a fleshy prehensile nose able to help them grab leaves and breathe while swimming.
Aside from their long pregnancies, they usually have just one offspring per birth. They can grow as large as 300 kilos (660 pounds), live up to 18 years and have hooves similar to horses or rhinos.