This summer Denver Zoo will host the silver anniversary celebration of Do At The Zoo, presented by Anadarko Petroleum Corporation. As we prepare to honor 25 years of this successful fundraiser we have enjoyed looking back at some of our favorite memories. For today’s Throwback Thursday and to honor World Tapir Day on April 27, the Zoo is digging into the more recent past to celebrate the birth of a Malayan tapir calf who arrived, in rather dramatic fashion, in September 2012.
Zookeepers had been keeping a close eye on female Malayan tapir, Rinny, through a live video feed as they had started to see signs that the pregnant tapir could give birth any day. On September 3, 2012 Rinny gave birth to a calf inside the rhino/tapir holding building in Toyota Elephant Passage. But, the newborn calf was stuck and unresponsive in his amniotic sac. They watched as first-time mom Rinny tried to free the calf, but wasn’t having any success.
Animal staff quickly decided it was time to act. They safely separated mother and calf and then freed the newborn from the sac. They saw that he wasn’t breathing and began providing mouth-to-snout rescue breaths and manually stimulated the baby to encourage regular breathing. After several minutes of rescue efforts, the infant successfully began to breathe on his own. As soon as it was clear he was going to be ok, they allowed Rinny back in, and she quickly took over in her role as mom. The successful rescue was captured on video and quickly became popular across the internet.
The calf, named Dumadi, for the Indonesian word meaning “becoming,” continued to grow and thrive in Toyota Elephant Passage. He loved to be in the water and was almost always in a pool when given the opportunity. He was the first birth of his species at the zoo and the first birth of any species in Toyota Elephant Passage. By June of 2013 he had been weaned, common for this species, and was ready to go to his new home, the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Nebraska.
Dumadi was the first birth for both Rinny and his father, Benny. Benny was born at the City of Belfast Zoo in Ireland in 2006 and arrived at Denver Zoo from Toronto Zoo in 2007. Rinny was born at Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo in 2007 and came to Denver Zoo from there in 2010. 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, and are currently expecting a new arrival in the rhino/tapir building in the upcoming weeks.
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.
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!
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.