Amazing Kids! Magazine

No Internet in the Jungle

By Enzo Monfre, SciTech Kids Columnist

 

Reading can take you away to many different places. You can learn about different people, animals, history, whatever you want to discover, reading is the path to knowledge.

Prior to a recent trip to Central America, I read a lot and researched various animals and plant life from that area of the world. I read a little bit about the Baird’s Tapir, but I didn’t do a lot of research on them, I didn’t think we would even see one, because they are endangered, shy and reclusive.

And wouldn’t you know it, the one creature that I didn’t research, was living at the lodge we were staying at in Nicaragua. The tapir was a rescue animal, and the lodge owners were taking care of it.

The tapir’s name is Coquito, in Spanish it means “little coco.” Coquito is NOT little! Coquito is about five feet long and weighs 400 pounds.

We filmed a small video about him, and of course, Coquito did everything to avoid being filmed. He was active and ran around and basically acted like a tapir… and then when the camera started rolling, he just stood there with his rear facing the camera. When I tried to feed him, he stared at me and waved his elephant-like, prehensile nose at me!

If you’re wondering what it looks like, imagine a small hippo with a weird nose and stinks like something that is rotting. One of the reasons he has such a foul smell, is tapirs mark their territories with urine and dung.

Tapirs are the largest Central American mammal, weighing up to 880 pounds and up to 6 feet long. They are related to horses and the rhinoceros.

They are nocturnal, which means they are most active at night, but are sometimes awake during the day.

Tapirs are herbivores, eating mostly leaves and fruit that have fallen from trees.

They live close to small rivers and streams, so they can swim on hot days (which seems to be everyday in Nicaragua, at least when we were there).

Tapir’s have no defense mechanisms, instead they have really thick skin to protect themselves from predators, such as jaguars and crocodiles.

They can live to be 30 years old and actually live a pretty lonely life, but when they are near other tapirs they use their strange snout to make whistles and squeaks to communicate. Sometimes they will form a group, which is called a candle.

It’s kind of interesting that the Baird’s tapir was named after the American naturalist, Spencer Fullerton Baird, in the 1840‘s, the person who researched them and not the person who actually discovered them.
These Nicaraguan critters are one of the strangest things I’ve ever met… really.
Coquito is part of an endangered species, in fact, all four tapir species are endangered or threatened, largely due to hunting and habitat loss.

Thank goodness that I brought a book about animals of Central America with me on my trip, so I was able to learn about the Baird’s tapir… there was no internet in the jungle.