The tapir baby is on exhibit from 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. daily.
The Minnesota Zoo is thrilled to announce the birth of a Malayan tapir (Tay-purr) calf, the first born at the Zoo in more than 20 years. The newborn female tapir was born at approximately 9:15 p.m. on Saturday, July 20, 2013, after a 419-day gestation period. The mother, named Bertie, and her calf are doing fine.
Tapir Calf Diaries Here at the Minnesota Zoo, we are all very excited about the recent birth of an endangered Malayan tapir calf. Our dedicated animal care staff have been working around the clock to make sure that everything runs smoothly and safely for the female tapir calf and her mother. Here are some of the “keeper notes” the first few days since the birth…
Day 1: July 20, 2013
The female tapir had her first contraction about 8:45PM and the calf arrived very quickly after at about 9:15PM. Keeper staff were observing on the web cam and arrived shortly after. Everything was looking good, but as the calf had not been able to stand on its own by 11:30PM, staff decided to go in and assist the calf with its first feeding/nursing.
Tapirs are very unique in that they really, really enjoy being rubbed down with a deck brush; this is equivalent to getting a massage. As the tapirs get very relaxed during this ‘rubdown’, staff are able to do many things with them including simple medical procedures such as ultrasounds and blood draws. This was very helpful in monitoring the 13.5 month long gestation.
Staff were able to use this rubdown procedure on the female tapir and then position the calf to where it could nurse for the first time. The nursing went very well and the calf was quickly walking around and checking out its new home.
Staff continued to monitor the dam and calf throughout the night to make sure it continued to nurse and do well.
Day 2: July 21, 2013
Day two was pretty uneventful. The calf continued to gain strength and master walking. However that night, keepers started noticing that although the dam would roll to her side to allow the calf access to her mammary glands for nursing, the dam would quickly roll back upright as soon as the calf started to nurse. There were a couple successful short nursing sessions overnight, but most of the time mom would roll away, not allowing the calf to continue to nurse.
Day 3: July 22, 2013
Concerned about mammary soreness or a infection called mastitis, the keepers had the veterinary staff come up to do a visual exam and palpate the female’s udders. The udders did not appear enflamed or infected, but it was clear that she was a little more sensitive. Staff attempted to position the calf to nurse while the female was rubbed down for the vet exam, but the dam quickly ‘sat up’ as soon as the calf started to nurse.
Staff continued to monitor her through the day and although she continued to roll to her side to position herself to allow the calf to nurse, she continued to sit up as soon as the calf started to nurse. As the day went on, we became more concerned and decided to try to rubdown her down again and try to get the calf to nurse. Thankfully, the keepers were successful this time and she stayed laying on her side for an hour to let the calf nurse.
Staff hoped this would decrease the pressure on the mammary gland and reduce the soreness the dam was experiencing, but unfortunately the next nursing attempts by the calf continued to be unsuccessful. It was decided again to do another rubdown that evening and it was successful in getting the calf another 45 min of nursing time.
Day 4: July 23, 2013
Overnight observations were very positive and the calf was observed nursing at 1:30AM, 4:00AM and 5:45AM. Staff hoped that we were past the soreness issue and no further assistance would be required. For the first time the calf was observed playing next to mom; pronking, jumping and running around mom!
The veterinary staff did a quick neonatal exam that morning and the calf appeared strong and healthy. The dam was upset about the separation, but did well and staff were able to keep her calm.
Staff continued to observe for nursing behavior, but were again seeing that the dam was sitting up shortly after the calf started to nurse. Staff again did a rubdown and was able to get the calf to nurse for about 30 minutes.
Pool time! Tapirs love water and it is a big part of their life. Adult tapirs normally defecate in water as in the wild the water would then carry the feces away and would therefore not attract predators. Some calves also need water to stimulate defecation so it is important to introduce them to water early. We also however need to be careful so that the calf does not drown as they are still pretty clumsy for a while.
In the afternoon, the calf got its first pool experience with close staff supervision. Staff installed a false bottom to their normal stall pool and filled the pool so that the calf had three inches of water to play in. Mom was separated, but still had visual and auditory access to the calf, so that staff could quickly intervene if needed. However, no intervention was needed other than helping it in and out of the pool and the calf had a great time in the water. After about 30 minutes, the calf was shifted back over to the maternity stall and mom was granted access to the calf.
Several times that in the afternoon and evening the calf was observed nursing from mom without any problems! Her mammary soreness appears to have passed and no assisted feedings were needed for the rest of the day, but the staff will continue to monitor closely.
July 24, 2013
Tapir and calf did very well overnight with several nursings, some as long as 30 minutes! Calf was weighed in AM and is up 0.8kg from yesterday, although the weight immediately followed a very long feeding, so some of that weight is due to the milk from mom.
She was given some pool time again today; still needed assistance from keepers getting into the pool, but got out of the pool pretty much by itself.
It has otherwise been a fairly unremarkable day (which is great!) with regular observed nursings and starting to see more play behavior.
July 25, 2013
Another great day for the calf. Nursing continues to go really well with no further apparent soreness from mom. Mom and calf appear to be developing a strong bond as we see them sleep next to eachother more frequently. We are seeing more play behavior for the calf which is a good sign that it is getting enough nutrition and is gaining more muscle strength and control. Calf was up in weight again reaching 10kg.
Calf go access to the pool twice again, but we increased the pool depth from 3 inches to 6 inches. Calf was not as playful in the water today, but is still navigating it well. She still struggles to go down the steps into the pool but has easily mastered getting out. Pool time in the morning is pretty consistently started around 10-10:30AM, but the afternoon time has varied based on staff time in the afternoon.
July 27, 2013
The tapir calf continues on the fast track. She is now at 10.7 kg keeping on a consistent 300-400g per day growth curve. She has outgrown the box we put her in for weights so now she gets to walk onto our portable platform scale. If you go to your veterinarian, you have probably seen this type of scale used to weigh your dog.
During her swim time this morning she finally figured out how to step into the pool on her own. Now that she doesn’t need a little keeper assistance for that first step we can’t keep her out of the water! It won’t be long before we can drop the pool a few more inches.
She is fun to watch as she is reunited with her mom. She gets pretty frisky, kicking up her heels and tossing her head in play, as she lopes back to her bedded down stall to take a much deserved nap. She is only a week old after all and all that play time tends to tire her out.
July 28, 2013
The calf continues to do very well and we are seeing increased play behavior, maybe a little to mom’s dismay when she is trying to nap! We are also starting to see the calf starting to sample the alfalfa and browse already! We have decreased the amount of straw on the floor as the calf has not shown any problems walking on the rubberized floor.
We increased the pool depth by two inches today and the calf continues to show interest in the water. She mastered climbing out of the pool several days ago and is getting better at getting in, but still needs some staff assistance; like all toddlers she is still learning to master her motor skills (and yes, at 7 days old she is already the human equivalent of a toddler!). Within the next week or so, staff hope to be able to increase the pool depth enough for the calf to swim and not just ‘wade’ into the water.
The calf was over 13kg this morning; 50% growth in 11 days! She continues to do great, and we are continuing to see more and more activity and play as her motor skills improve. She has also started sampling more of mom’s diet, although we can’t really tell how much she is consuming or if she is just tasting it.
She got a special surprise this afternoon when we doubled the pool depth so she can finally go from wading to swimming. She had a great time and spent a lot more time in the water than we had been seeing the last few days. She had to take a couple short breaks on the step, but she would turn right back around and go for another swim! The surprise for us was how easily she got into and out of the pool without zookeeper help! We were not sure with dropping the false floor by 6 inches that she’d still manage getting over the edge of the pool, but she got out twice without even using the baby steps we added for her!
The tapir calf continues to gain weight. She is now at 16.7kg..a doubling of weight in just 2 ½ weeks! We are seeing changes in her behavior also. Whereas she was naïve about being away from her mother last week, this week we are seeing a much stronger bond so that when we separate them to weigh the calf and allow her to swim it is not long before they both realize they are not together and call to one another. The calf is also seen jumping on the head and back of the mom as she is resting on her straw bed. She is almost ready for the larger spaces of the exhibit! We took the false floor out of the pool today so the calf has the full 4 feet of water to swim in. She was caught off guard at first expecting to be able to touch at least her hind feet on the bottom, but a keeper in waders was right there to help keep her head above water and soon she figured things out and was expertly swimming in the deeper water. The keeper, on the other hand, ended up with a wader full of water as she moved off her lower step into the deeper end in her haste to assist the calf, not realizing that her waders are only meant for 3 ½ feet of water! Oh well, any wise keeper always keeps a spare set of dry socks around for just such an event.
The calf is currently getting access to the pool twice a day, mid morning and late afternoon. Water is big part of a tapir’s life and they need to learn how to swim early. As the calf is still working to master getting into the pool and general coordination, staff are wading into the water with the calf to make sure it does not encounter any challenges that may cause the calf harm during this time. For the safety of the staff, the adult female tapir is allowed access over to the adult male’s stall (he is in the public habitat during the day) and given some of her diet during this time; she has been very calm and not shown any indications of stress during these short separations. The staff you may see on the camera are only with the calf for this short supervised time in the pool for the calf’s safety, the rest of the day the calf is under the care of her mom.
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One of the most endangered animals in Southeast Asia, Malayan tapir populations are declining due to habitat loss from deforestation for agricultural palm oil plantations. Palm oil is used in many food products, cosmetics, and bath products. You can help save tropical forests that are home to tapirs and other wildlife by purchasing products that use sustainable palm oil. Learn more and pick up a shopping guide by visiting http://www.mnzoo.org/DoOneThing/shopping.asp
The Malayan tapir's gestation period varies from 390-410 days. Mothers give birth to a single calf (twins are rare). At birth, a calf weighs approximately 10-20 pounds. A female normally births a calf every 2-4 years. For the first 6-8 months of their life, tapir calves resemble furry watermelons with legs. They are dark brown to black with alternating bands of yellowish-white stripes and spots. Young tapirs grow quickly and can weigh as much as 450 pounds at one year of age and reach adult size in about 2-3 years.
“This birth is a great way to celebrate National Zookeeper Week and the dedication the staff have for these animals,” says Tom Ness, Tropics Trail supervisor. “Malayan Tapirs are an endangered species and every birth is important to the population.”
In human care, the Malayan tapir is managed for breeding purposes by a Species Survival Plan® (SSP), which, through the coordinated efforts of several zoos throughout the United States, helps maintain the captive gene pool for the future aid of the wild population. The Minnesota Zoo currently participates in 60 SSP programs, including the Malayan tapir SSP. The Zoo had 4 prior Malayan tapir births, the last one occurring in 1991.
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