Behind the Scenes banner

Director of Animal Programs, Lauren Hinson, works to install a custom “shoe” onto Baird’s tapir Antonio.

Six-year-old Baird’s tapir Antonio is back on the mend thanks to the watchful eye and hard work of our animal care staff.

Antonio the Baird's tapir walks around his habitat. Rainforest Revealed keepers recently noticed a large crack on one of the hooves on Antonio’s front foot and observed him showing signs of discomfort. They immediately notified our veterinary team, who prescribed him pain medication and scheduled a procedure to fit Antonio for custom “shoes” similar to a procedure in May of 2021.

Upon closer examination, our animal care team found that the crack was very deep and close to the bone, making it painful for Antonio to walk. While we are not entirely certain of the reason for the crack, our best judgment suggests that he wore his hoof down running over rocks or on the hard surface of the pool in his habitat.

“Antonio seems to have a more sensitive sole material that overwears easily,” said Director of Animal Programs Lauren Hinson. This just means we have to monitor him extra closely to ensure he has the best possible wellbeing.

Once Antonio was anesthetized, radiographs were taken to determine whether the bone was being affected by the crack. It was determined that the bone was very close to the surface of the crack and there was some remodeling of the bone.

Before the custom “shoes” were placed, his cracked hoof was packed with a fibrous material, sanded and heated to dry. In order to maintain balance and prevent excess wear, we placed shoes on both of his front feet.

Baird's tapir Antonio's new custom shoes

The finished product!

Lauren began the shoeing process, first cleaning and roughing up the surface of the hooves to provide a rough but flat surface for shoe placement. She then coated the affected areas with a specialized fibrous material to provide protection and got to work on attaching three shoes on each front hoof using an animal-safe adhesive. Fun fact: Baird’s tapirs have four hooves on each front foot, three of which are weight bearing.

While under anesthesia, our veterinary team also performed a physical exam and a blood draw on Antonio, who recovered without issue in a behind-the-scenes area shortly after the procedure concluded.

He will sport his shoes until they fall off on their own or we need to voluntarily remove them. This could be in weeks or months. At this time, we will check the crack to see if it healed properly, indicated by the sole material growing back and his digit looking normal.

Antonio is back out on habitat as he adjusts to his new shoes. Our three Baird’s tapirs – Antonio, 30-year-old Josie and 5-year-old Mia – rotate between multiple yards in our Rainforest Revealed and Wild Florida loops to give them more choices over how to spend their days. If you visit the Zoo soon, you’re most likely to spot Antonio in our main tapir habitat in Rainforest Revealed while he gets used to his new kicks!

Baird’s tapirs are considered endangered and all tapir species are threatened due to hunting pressure and habitat loss. Since 2002, we’ve supported tapir conservation by helping organizations like Lowland Tapir Conservation Initiative research these incredible animals.

Brevard Zoo is an independent, not-for-profit organization that receives no recurring government funding for our operating costs. Your generous support enables us to continue to serve our community and continue our vital animal wellness, education and conservation programs.