Brazilian tapir

Tapirus terrestris

tapir5 min
IUCN Conservation Status –
Least Concern
Extinct In The Wild
Class: Mammals
Order: Perissodactyla
Family: Tapiridae

We are home to two Brazilian tapir – Al Capone, who is 16 years old, and his son Shaun who was born in August 2020.

Brazilian tapir are native to South America, inhabiting wet forests and grasslands.

Tapirs are very important to the ecosystem as they help to distribute the seeds of plants they eat. Their diet consists of grasses, leaves, buds, soft twigs, fruits, low growing shrubs, aquatic vegetation and green shoots.

Interesting facts!

  • There are 4 species of tapir – Brazilian, Malay, Baird’s and Mountain. All species are referred to as ‘living fossils’, as they are among the most primitive mammals on earth, having changed very little over the past 20 million years.
  • Tapirs are great swimmers! They will often use their trunk like snouts as a snorkel when diving deeper, closing their nostrils to avoid water getting in.
  • Baby tapirs are born covered in spots and stripes, like a humbug, which serves as camouflage against predation during these vulnerable first few months. The spots and stripes slowly fade and are completely gone within 5-6 months.
  •  Their snouts are prehensile, meaning it can be used to grab and pick up things. Tapirs use theirs to grab fruits, leaves and other food to eat.


The biggest threats to the population of this Vulnerable species are excessive hunting, harsh competition with livestock as well as deforestation. Brazilian tapirs are officially protected by the Government.

Our pair of Brazilian tapir are involved in the EAZA ex-situ breeding programme (EEP) for the species. We have been successful with breeding tapir in the past with Al Capone and Emily’s first offspring, Matilda, born back in 2018 and their second offspring, Shaun. We hope to continue this success in the future and further contribute to the population of this species.