It was World Tapir Day [link]
last Wednesday, and I thought how nice it would be, now that summer's here and the evenings are warm again, to sit out in the cool damp woods (before the mosquitoes mature
), smell the fresh grass... and have a friendly giant tapir for company.
Sadly, all four species of tapir across the americas and south east asia are now endangered due to loss of habitat, with the biggest species, the baird's tapir, facing extinction in the next 20 years. As the world tapir day website put it:"the plight of tapirs is symbolic [of] the wider threat to their habitats [...] and the world's ecology in general. [...] their disappearance from their home ranges often marks a point of 'no return' for the natural environment."
To find out more about tapir conservation, go here -> [link]
Curiously, tapirs, despite looking like a mixture between a pig and an elephant, are actually closer related to horses - check out pictures of horse evolution and you'll see something very tapir-like amongst their earlier ancestors, before their three-toed feet evolved into modern hooves.
I can’t help imagining what would’ve happened if somehow rather than domesticating horses, we ended up domesticating tapirs for riding (they probably have had to evolve to be a bit bigger, but just indulge my imagination here for a moment). We’d have these great lumbering equestrian events, and everything horse-shaped in this alternate universe would be tapir shaped: knights on tapirs, the classic novel Black Tapir and film The Tapir Whisperer, rockingtapirs for kids (thanks altergromit!), clothestapirs to dry our clothes on…