Thursday, July 16, 2009

Weekly Dose of Cute: Tapir - cuter than it sounds!

When I saw this little girl over at Zooborns, I couldn't help but fall completely in love! Isn't she just the cutest little doll?! Best yet, the Belfast Zoo, where this little angel was born, is currently having a naming contest for the little girl.

In case you didn't know, this beautiful baby girl is a Malayan Tapir, the largest of the four species of these strange-looking creatures. As an adult, she'll gail the distinctive "saddle" marking of her kind (see Right). The lucky momma carried this baby girl for just over a year before giving birth on June 22nd.

Unfortunately, like so many of the animals I feature on the Weekly Dose, The Malayan Tapir is endangered. Although they once roamed all over the tropical rainforests of southeast Asia, deliberate hunting and habitat loss have pushed all tapir species to the brink of extinction. Other than humans, tapirs have few natural predators, but we more than make up for the lack of other predators. Sickly, the sale of a young tapir like this baby girl can get its successful captor $5500 in Thailand, despite protected status. While they are protected Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand, their habitat is not, and rapid deforestation and flooding by dams for agricultural purposes are quickly threatening what little of their once expansive range remains. Precious babies like this one may soon be the only way we can keep afloat this magnificent and unique species.