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Denver, CO - Denver Zoo Malayan tapir Rinny is pregnant and receiving great care from animal and veterinary staff. Zookeepers believe the calf will be born around June after tracking when Rinny and her mate, Benny, were observed breeding. This will not only be the second calf for Rinny, but her species at the zoo as well.
Zoo veterinarians say the pregnancy is going well and Rinny is given routine ultrasounds to track her progress. Zookeepers weigh her on a scale regularly and, to make sure she gains just the right amount of weight, alter her diet based on her body condition and mass. So far, though she is in excellent health and the baby seems fine.
"We're always cautiously optimistic when it comes to our animals' pregnancies, but we are happy with what see so far," says Denver Zoo Staff Veterinarian Dr. Diana Boon. "Although Rinny's last pregnancy was successful, it took heroic efforts of our staff to save the calf."
Rinny and Benny welcomed their first calf, Dumadi, in September 2012. While his birth was normal, the events immediately following were difficult. After Rinny unsuccessfully attempted to free Dumadi from his amniotic sac, two staff members raced in to free the newborn from the sac, provide mouth-to-snout rescue breaths and manually stimulate the newborn for regular breathing in order to expel liquid from his lungs. After a few minutes of rescue efforts, Dumadi successfully began to breathe on his own.
Rinny was born at Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo in 2007 and came to Denver Zoo from there in 2010. Benny was born at the City of Belfast Zoo in Ireland in 2006 and arrived at Denver Zoo from Toronto Zoo in 2007. The two were paired under recommendation of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP) which ensures healthy populations and genetic diversity among zoo animals. Fortunately, the couple has proved to be an excellent match.
Though they are most closely related to horses and rhinos, tapirs are similar in build to pigs, but significantly larger. Malayan tapirs have a large, barrel shaped body ideal for crashing through dense forest vegetation. Their noses and upper lips are extended to form a long prehensile snout similar to a stubby version of an elephant's trunk. Malayan tapirs are the largest of the four tapir species. They stand more than 3-feet-tall and can stretch from between 6 to 8-feet-long. They can also weigh more than 1,100 pounds. They are also excellent swimmers and spend much of their time in water. They can even use their flexible noses as snorkels!
As adults, Malayan tapirs have a distinctive color pattern that some people say resembles an Oreo cookie, with black front and back parts separated by a white or gray midsection. This provides excellent camouflage that breaks up the tapir's outline in the shadows of the forest. By contrast, young tapirs have color patterns that more resemble brown watermelons with spots and stripes which help them blend into the dappled sunlight and leaf shadows of the forest and protect them from predators.
Malayan tapirs are the only tapir native to Asia. Once found throughout Southeast Asia, they now inhabit only the rainforests of the Indochinese peninsula and Sumatra. With a wild population of less than 2,000 individuals they are classified as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) due to habitat loss and hunting.