MEET baby Marjorie, the Malayan tapir born on March 4 in Belfast Zoo.
Mother Gladys came from Toronto Zoo while her father Elmer moved from Mulhouse Zoo in France.
But the language barrier hasn’t proven to be a problem to the pair who now speak the ‘language of love’.
Elmer and Gladys are now one of the most successful breeding pairs of Malayan tapir in Europe – and have now welcomed 11 babies since meeting in Belfast.
“Malayan tapirs are a beautiful but slightly unusual-looking species. They are related to horses and rhinoceroses,” said zoo curator Andrew Hope.
“The adults have a distinctive coat pattern and are black on the front and white on the back.
“However, when the calves are born they have beige spotted and striped markings, which make them look incredibly like ‘watermelons on legs’. Marjorie will begin to lose her markings after a few months and when she is six months old she will look like a miniature adult.”
Malayan tapirs are the only tapir from Asia and are found in Indonesia, Burma (Myanmar), Malaysia and Thailand. This incredible species faces a high risk of extinction, with latest studies estimating that the population could decline by up to 50 per cent over the next 30 years.
The main reasons for their decline are the destruction of their forest habitats and they are also hunted for meat and sport.
There are only 50 Malayan tapirs in European zoos – and only 150 in zoos worldwide.
Zoo manager Mark Challis said the latest birth is “a wonderful achievement for the whole Belfast Zoo team and for the Malayan tapir breeding programme”.
“They are such an endangered animal and every birth is vital to sustaining a captive population,” he said.
“As one of the most successful breeding pairs in Europe, Gladys and Elmer certainly demonstrate the collaborative efforts between zoos, as their offspring have moved to zoos throughout the world, including London Zoo, Amsterdam Zoo, Beauval Zoo (in France), Denver Zoo and Nuremberg Zoo (in Germany).”
Belfast Zoo celebrates world tapir day, with feeding times, keeper talks and competitions on April 28 and 29.
You can support the care of Belfast Zoo’s Malayan tapirs by taking part in the animal adoption scheme.
For more information visit www.belfastzoo.co.uk/adoptions, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 028 9077 6277 extension 229.