The Baird's Tapir provides a great reason to explore Costa Rica

Adult Male Tapir in Corcovado National Park
Adult Male Tapir in Corcovado National Park

Costa Rica is the preeminent tourist destination for eco-tourists hoping to see both the lush greenery of tropical rainforests and the rich and diverse group of animals that inhabit them. Thanks to the federal government's considerable conservation and protection laws that have classified a full fourth of the country as protected national parks, Costa Rica has become host to several rare and beautiful animals that can scarcely be seen anywhere else on earth. Among the rarer species found in the Central American paradise are the gentle and endangered Baird's Tapirs.

Unique Mix

Baird's Tapirs, or Tapirus Bairdii, are large, herbivorous mammals whose prehensile snout and pointed ears lead them to resemble a unique mix between a pig and a pack mule. Despite this appearance, the Tapirs are more closely related to odd-toed ungulates like horses and rhinoceroses. While separate species of Tapir can be found in parts of South America and Southeast Asia, the Baird's Tapir is localized largely within Costa Rican borders.

Costa Rica Danta

Commonly referred to as Danta by the locals, these Tapir's are a unique and beautiful animal that can be recognized by the distinctive off-white markings on its face, interrupted by dark spots on the creature's cheeks and around its eyes. At roughly 6.6 feet in length and 530-880 lbs, the Baird's Tapir is easily the largest of the species' breeds found within Central America, not to mention the largest wild land mammal in the region.

Popular target

As large, slow animals, tapirs have historically been a popular target for hunting by larger predatory animals like the jaguar and American crocodiles. Those same qualities have also made the tapir a popular target for humans in the past, though most countries have since passed laws forbidding the practice of hunting the gentle animals. Despite these protections, Tapirs remain on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN's) list of species vulnerable for extinction. As such, numerous protection organizations - among them the Tapir Specialist Group - have sprung up in recent years to ensure the continued survival of the species.

Where to See it

While Tapirs.org estimates that fewer than 5,500 Baird's Tapirs remain to this day, spotting one may be difficult, but is not impossible. Visitors to Costa Rica can find the typically docile creatures in a number of national parks across the country including Corcovado National Park, Santa Rosa National Park and Rincon de la Vieja National Park.