Seven Frequently Asked Questions About Tapirs

A Tapir (Thaphirus Bairdil) is seen in Guatemala´s largest zoo, La Aurora, in Guatemala City on Abril 20, 2010.

Photo by JOHAN ORDONEZ/AFP/Getty Images

The Federal Reserve surprised financial markets yesterday by declining to “taper” the pace at which it purchased long-term bonds and mortgage backed securities (what’s all this about? find out here) which led to the customary surge in economics writers making taper/tapir puns on twitter. But what the heck is a tapir anyway?

Here are the seven things you need to know about tapirs:

1. Do I really need to know anything about tapirs? No, nothing about this is even slightly useful in your daily life.

2. But really, what’s a tapir? “Tapir” is a term used to refer to four distinct species of mammal, all classified as belonging to the genus tapirus.

3. They look like pigs, right? More or less, yes. But that’s a case of convergent evolution more than common ancestry. Tapirs are odd-toed ungulates and thus more closely related to horses or rhinos than to even-toed ungulates such as pigs.

4. Where do these pig-horses live? Latin America and Southeast Asia.

5. Do these animals ever attack humans and sever their arms? In general, no. But it’s happened. In 1998 an Oklahoma City zookeeper was pulled by a tapir into its cage, at which point the tapir bit her arm off. So be careful!

6. Say I live in North America and would like to see an adorable baby tapir, where should I go? Minnesota. At this to the list of reasons you should move to Minneapolis

7. Where can I learn more about tapirs from someone who isn’t just kidding around? The Tapir Specialist Group is a unit of the IUCN Species Survival Commission. They study the problem of tapir conservation, both in zoos and in the wild, and are particularly concerned with the issue of preserving the genetic diversity of tapir populations which is crucial to the long-term survival of the species.

If you’re just interesting in cute picture of baby tapirs, I would recommend the zooborns Tapirs tag.