Written by: Chris Massaro, General Curator
Christmas may come early at ZooTampa at Lowry Park, where there is a new bundle of joy on the way. Ubi, an endangered Malayan tapir, is pregnant and expected to deliver her third calf in December. Her pregnancy is critical for conservation because a healthy population in human care helps create a safety net for a species facing extinction.
While tapirs (pronounced TEY-per) are usually solitary by nature, the animal care team at the Zoo has developed a strong bond with Ubi, ensuring she is comfortable as she receives prenatal care from the medical team. Luckily for her, this means she receives belly scratches from her keepers while the medical care team conducts ultrasounds regularly. It’s a team effort!
It is important that Ubi be as comfortable as possible as we check on both her and her calf’s health. The strong bonds that the animal care team has with the animals enable higher quality of care for each animal.
The Malayan tapir, though sometimes mistaken for a relative of a pig or anteater, is a close relative of the rhinoceros and horse. A Tapir calf will have a very distinctive coat pattern when first born, made up of a series of spots and stripes to help camouflage the baby. This coat pattern will slowly change over six months to the unique black and white pattern of the parents. Known as “living fossils,” this unique, endangered species is the most primitive large mammal in the world, dating back to 20 million years ago. Due to hunting and habitat loss, the species continues to decline.
As Ubi explores her habitat with her mate, Albert, guests can see she’s carrying additional pregnancy weight. Once the baby is born, it will be introduced to the tapir habitat where it will live with mom and dad. Ubi arrived at ZooTampa in 2008 with Albert joining her in 2013 – they are part of the Zoo’s effort to conserve the Malayan tapir through the Species Survival Plan (SSP) of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).
You can keep up with our Malayan tapir family by following us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Guests can also adopt the future baby by visiting ZooTampa.org/adopt.