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Baby tapir

Try not to fall in love with this watermelon baby. Photo by Rainforest Revealed Supervisor Michelle Ferguson.

Back in July, we teased you that we were expecting a baby boom this fall. Four-year-old Eastern bongo Clover gave birth on October 18, and we patiently waited for 3-year-old Baird’s tapir Mia to welcome her little one into the world.

Around 1 a.m. on November 2, Mia gave birth! Thanks to a camera system installed in the tapir night house—and the dedication of our animal staff watching at home—we were able to observe her going into labor. Director of Animal Programs Lauren Hinson, Expedition Africa Supervisors Chelsea Herman and Kim Castrucci and Rainforest Revealed Supervisor Michelle Ferguson jumped in their cars and drove straight to the Zoo (prepared to step in if necessary), discovering that Mia had given birth after a very short six minutes of labor!

According to our animal care staff, the baby stood and took their first steps within the hour and several short tending sessions were observed via camera. “From the camera, we watched the first nursing session around 3 a.m., which lasted until the baby fell asleep on Mia,” said Lauren.

A neonatal exam performed on November 4 confirmed the baby is male and appears strong and healthy. Although he is nursing some on his own, we have observed him having trouble latching onto Mia’s teats and have assisted as necessary. The little one weighed a whopping 20 pounds at the time of exam!

Although this baby is not the first of his species born at the Zoo, Mia is a first-time mom who was hand-reared at a young age. Because of this, we had our concerns that her motherly instincts may not kick in and were prepared to step in as needed. Fortunately, we seem to have been wrong!

Mia and the little one are currently bonding behind the scenes as we continue to monitor them around the clock through the cameras. We are hoping that they will be visible on habitat in the upcoming weeks, but this will depend on the comfort level of both Mia and the baby. Keep your eyes out soon to see if you can catch a glimpse!

Baird’s tapirs are endangered due to habitat loss and human hunting. This species is known for appearing watermelon-like as young thanks to their unique pattern. In their natural habitat, this design helps the little ones camouflage in the filtered sunlight of the forest. The stripes will eventually fade as tapirs grow older and resemble the coloring of their adult counterparts.

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.