Denver Zoo Map
June 22, 2017


Female calf “Umi” viewable at Toyota Elephant Passage

Denver Zoo’s new female Malayan tapir (TAY-purr) calf, Umi (OOH-mee), is now viewable to guests inside the tapir yard at the Zoo’s Toyota Elephant Passage habitat. Umi, whose name means “life” in the Malay language, was born on May 6 to mother Rinny and father Benny. Umi remained away from public view until she learned how to swim and was comfortable to venture outside. She is only the third birth of her endangered species at the Zoo.

Umi is still staying close to mother Rinny. Keepers say that, like most children, Umi is most active in the morning—then picks up activity again after a nap. Though she’s currently teething, she’s beginning to eat solid foods, like kale and bananas, from mom. Keepers add that she’s very intelligent and that her favorite thing in the whole world is being scratched.

Unlike the color pattern guests will see on parents Rinny and Benny, Umi’s coloring resembles a brown watermelon. In their natural habitat, young Malayan tapirs’ spots and stripes help them blend into the dappled sunlight and leaf shadows of the forest to protect from predators. Contrasting, adults have a distinctive color pattern that some people say resembles an Oreo cookie-- black in the front and back, separated by a white or gray midsection. This provides excellent camouflage that breaks up the tapir’s outline in the shadows of the forest.

Rinny was born at Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo in 2007 and came to Denver Zoo from there in 2010. Benny was born at the City of Belfast Zoo in Ireland in 2006 and arrived at Denver Zoo from there in 2007. The two were paired under recommendation of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP), which ensures healthy populations and genetic diversity among zoo animals. Fortunately, the couple has proved to be an excellent match as this is the third birth for both parents. At the present time, Rinny and Umi share a space while Benny is kept separate.

Though they are most closely related to horses and rhinos, tapirs are similar in build to pigs, but significantly larger. Malayan tapirs have a large, barrel shaped body ideal for crashing through dense forest vegetation. Their noses and upper lips are extended to form a long, prehensile snout similar to a stubby version of an elephant’s trunk. Malayan tapirs are the largest of the four tapir species. As adults, they can stand more than 3-feet-tall and can stretch from between 6 to 8-feet-long. On average they weigh between 700 and 900 pounds. They are also excellent swimmers and spend much of their time in water. They can even use their flexible noses as snorkels!

Malayan tapirs are the only tapir native to Asia. Once found throughout Southeast Asia, they now inhabit only the rainforests of the Indochinese peninsula and Sumatra. With a wild population of less than 2,000 individuals, they are classified as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), due to habitat loss and hunting.