Friday, April 27, 2012

World Tapir Day

It's an accepted fact (at my house, anyway) that tapir babies are the cutest in the animal kingdom. Looking just like little watermelons with snouts and legs, they can't help but charm everyone who sees one. So how can it be that tapirs are so terribly endangered?

Sadly, tapirs in general get little respect and even less press. They're importace to the biodiversity of the rain forests they call home can't be overstated, and yet the average person on the street can't identify one on sight. You don't need to take my word on that statistic, either. I once shared desk space with a scientist who was studying the public's attitude towards these odd ungulates. The result? Misidentifications included anteater, aardvark, hippopotamus, and even dinosaur, but very few people knew what a tapir was.
Since that time I've tried to do my part to change things, and so have a small but dedicated group of tapir fans and researchers. For several years now April 27th has been known as World Tapir Day, a day set aside to celebrate all things tapir. Personally, I'm a huge tapir fan. My senior year thesis was devoted to tapir conservation and to this day I maintain a small shop (you can see some of my wares to the right) on with the profits all going towards tapir conservation. I have had the good fortune to personally meet several mountain tapirs, and can tell you that they are animals worthy of attention.
I'd be thrilled to have you join me in observing World Tapir Day this year. Learn a tapir fact, tell someone about tapirs, or just forego that raised-in-South-America hamburger in favor of a locally grown chicken patty (cattle ranching threatens tapir habitat in ways big and small). And above all, marvel that an animal this important, this charismatic, and with babies this cute could possibly so little known. Then find a tapir and give it a hug. Or at least a reassuring smile. The tapirs and I thank you!

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