Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium’s 9-month-old tapir calf Kazu is healthy and growing more every day. Like all Malayan tapirs, he was covered in watermelon spots and stripes when he was little, but now he has the sleek black and white stripes of an adult tapir. He still has some baby spots on his chest, a couple of larger white spots on his shoulders and one on his head.
Kazu weighs around 430 pounds and will weigh between 600-700 pounds when he’s fully grown. He eats about 10 pounds of food a day, including yams, carrots, romaine, apple, pear, banana and timothy hay. That’s 75% of what adult tapirs eat daily. He also occasionally nurses from his mom, Yuna, but keepers say he will likely be weaned by his first birthday in July.
“Kazu enjoys spending time with his mom, Yuna, and often rests his head on her for warmth and a snuggle,” said Assistant Curator Erin Carey.
Kazu’s dad, Baku, lives in a room next door where the two can see, smell and interact through a barrier.
“Kazu and Baku spend their time running together and making several friendly vocalizations like hiccups and squeaks,” said Carey.
Kazu also found a friend in the zoo’s anoa, Baby Bean, often lying close to him at their shared window.
“Kazu is not shy,” said Carey. “When he is headed onto exhibit for another day’s adventure, he’s always in the lead looking for his favorite snacks like romaine lettuce and bananas.”
Like many of the animals at the zoo, Kazu gets special training sessions designed for his individual needs. Carey says he is an all-star when it comes to working with the keepers who care for him.
“He participates in scratch sessions, a great way for keepers to do overall body condition exams, voluntary blood draws and maintain healthy hoof growth,” said Carey.
Malayan tapirs once were found throughout the lowland rainforests of Southeast Asia. But the species’ numbers have declined dramatically due to human-animal conflict, including deforestation of their natural habitat, and they are now endangered. Only around 2,500 remain scattered in Thailand, peninsular Malaysia and the Indonesian island of Sumatra.
Kazu represents hope for the species: His birth came as the result of a breeding recommendation for Yuna and Baku by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan® for Malayan tapirs. The Species Survival Plan team looks at the genetic makeup of each prospective parent before recommending a pairing; this helps ensure diversity of the small Malayan tapir population in North American zoos.