Chester zoo hails birth of rare Malayan tapir as ‘important moment’

Female calf named Nessa will help efforts to protect species, of which fewer than 2,500 remain in the wild

An endangered Malayan tapir has been born at a UK zoo, in what the zoo said was an “important moment” for conservation.

The female calf, which zookeepers have named Nessa, was born weighing 9kg on Wednesday at Chester zoo, one of only two places in the country to keep tapirs, a species related to the horse and the rhinoceros.

Nessa has a distinctive coat of spots and stripes, a pattern that would help camouflage her on the forest floor, but this will slowly change over the next six months to match the black and white pattern of her mother, Margery.

Rosie Owen, a zookeeper at Chester zoo, said Nessa was “a real bundle of energy, confident and is always looking to explore”.

She said: “It’s so lovely to once again hear the pitter-patter of tiny, spotty and stripy Malayan tapir feet. They’re really special animals, a highly endangered species and very few zoos in the whole of Britain care for them, so it’s fair to say that Nessa’s arrival has put huge smiles on all of our faces.”

Hunting, illegal logging and mass deforestation have resulted in the reduction of the world’s Malayan tapir population by more than half, and fewer than 2,500 are estimated to remain across Malaysia, Sumatra, Thailand and Myanmar.

Mike Jordan, the director of animals and plants at Chester zoo, said: “Margery’s precious calf is a highly significant new arrival who will add valuable new genetics to the European endangered species breeding programme, which is working to ensure a safety net population of Malayan tapirs in conservation zoos like ours, guarding them from extinction.”

Last month Chester zoo was praised by Leonardo DiCaprio for helping to bring a “rare fish species back from the dead”. The Hollywood star posted on Instagram about how the golden skiffia had been released into a Mexican river, after a successful breeding programme in which the zoo took part.


Robyn Vinter

The GuardianTramp

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