The Timid Tapir

ImageScientists have announced one of the biggest zoological discoveries of our time as a new species of tapir has been found in Brazil and Colombia, the first since 1865. The new ry.  mammal is the first to be found in over a hundred years in the order Perissodactyla which ismade up of tapirs, rhinos and horses. Hidden from science but known to local indigenous tribes as the little black tapir, they are the largest land mammals to be uncovered in decades with a much earlier discovery if scientists had listened to the local knowledge. Although it is one of the biggest animals on the continent, it’s the smallest living tapir in the world with similar characteristics to the Brazilian tapir Tapirus terrestris, but sports darker hair with shorter legs, distinctive shaped skull and a prominent chest whist females characterized by a light patch on their lower head and neck. This new tapir has been named Tapirus kabomani after the name for “tapir” in the localPaumari language “Arabo kabomani” and was discovered inhabiting open grasslands and forests in the southwest Amazon but may be widespread, since it also seems to be present in the far eastern Amazon and in Colombia, similar to that of other Tapir’s it plays a crucial role to the tribes as food and a vital part of the ecosystem, working as seed predators and dispersers. All of the world’s tapir species are currently listed as threatened with extinction due to overhunting and habitat destruction, and the Kabomani tapir will be no different if not with greater risk due to its scarcity and is facing heavy human pressures including deforestation. Kabomani is known from several specimens obtained by local hunters but otherwise littleis known on the wild species but through the help of indigenous hunters remote cameras could photograph them. Although this species has only just been discovered through DNA testing this ‘new’ species has in fact been sitting on a museum shelf for about 100 years. Through comparison of numerous tapir fossils ancient and modern its short legged form raised the question whether this mammal has evolved or a reminisce of a primitive form but it can be sure, this finding is exciting for the continent, the conservation of the rainforest and the world as we are still discovering and learning and I personally look forward to the next discovery.

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