The expectant mom surely heard the horns and hoopla from Lowry Park Zoo's Noon Year's Eve celebration Saturday. But there was no one around when she gave birth in the quiet hours of New Year's morning to a female endangered Malayan tapir. It was the first zoo baby of the New Year.
After checking on mom Ubi at 10 p.m. and seeing no signs of a baby, zookeepers were greeted by the tiny tapir during their 2 a.m. check.
Now days old, the spotted newborn is alert and nursing routinely, both positive signs of health and strength, according to a news release about the new baby. For her safety and bonding with her mother, she will remain inside the tapir building under the watchful eye of animal care staff for the time being. The pair is not expected to be on exhibit for about a month.
"With less than a dozen viable breeding pairs of this endangered species in the managed population, each birth is extremely important in our efforts to sustain its viability," said Dr. Larry Killmar, vice president and director of collections.
Tapir calves are born covered in spots, which fade to a solid black and white pattern within six months. Infants resemble a watermelon in size and shape.
The newborn received her first check up by the zoo's veterinarian this week, where she weighed in at approximately 15 pounds. She is expected to gain about a pound a day.
The Malayan tapir is among the most primitive herbivores, dating back 20 million years. Closely related to the horse and rhinoceros more than any other species, the tapir has a unique, short trunk, formed by its upper lip and nose to help eat leaves, fruits and aquatic vegetation. In the wild, tapirs are found in Burma and Thailand within dense forests.