The first thing you'll notice about our South American Tapirs is their noses – long and bendy – to help them strip leaves, find fruits to eat and also to use as a snorkel when swimming underwater.

You'll see they also have a bristly looking crest of hair running from the top of their heads down their backs.

We have 3 tapirs in Chester - one who was born here in 1991, one who arrived from Port Lympne Wild Animal Park in 1992 and their daughter, who was born at the end of 2011.

Despite what some people think to be a fearsome appearance they are quite gentle and mild natured.

In the wild these unusual looking animals are excellent swimmers. They live in several different South American Countries, including Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Paraguay, Venezuela and Bolivia.

Rainforests, which are an important habitat type for these forest dependent animals, are increasingly being destroyed as developers and farmers take over the land. This has put the future survival of the Tapir under threat.

That's why we at Chester Zoo are keen supporters of The Lowland Tapir Conservation Initiative which has been finding out about behaviour and dispersal patterns of tapirs in the Atlantic Forest and the Pantanal wetland area of Brazil (read more on the Act for Wildlife blog here).

It is hoped this research will help safeguard the future of these fascinating animals which are increasingly hunted for meat, sold in South American markets, and for their hides, used to make sandals.

Every time you visit Chester Zoo to see our tapirs and other animals you help us to support vital conservation projects like these.

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Interesting facts

Where they live Northern and central South America including Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru.
Habitat Swamplands; shrub and grassland, mostly near water.
Size 83-118cm shoulder height; 1.9-2.42m length
Weight 200-250kg
Threats Hunting is the main threat to these species although habitat loss and deforestation also put pressure on these animals.

Species Information

Scientific name Tapirus terrestris
Order Perissodactyla
Family Tapiridae
Genus Tapirus
IUCN status Vulnerable
Roles in the zoo

In situ Conservation Ambassador

Species conservation: This is a species for which we have a significant focus on in the wild, as part of our conservation projects and programmes around the world.


Interdependence: This species helps demonstrate that all living things, including humans, live in ecosystems and depend on other living things for their survival.

Human Impact: This species helps demonstrate that human activities are causing serious environmental damage.

Partnerships: This species helps demonstrate that we work in partnerships with other organisations to conserve nature and natural resources.

Visitor experience