Baby tapir makes debut at Edinburgh zoo

Image caption,
Kamal will remain at Edinburgh zoo until he is 18 months old

A new baby animal has been introduced to the public at Edinburgh Zoo.

The tiny Malaysian tapir, born on 23 April, has been named Kamal, which means "perfection".

Kamal is the third calf born to mother Sayang and father, Ka.

He has white stripes and spots which will remain for up to six months until he develops his parents' distinctive black coat with a wide white "saddle" band.

Kamal will be kept at Edinburgh Zoo for up to 18 months.

He will then be transferred to another group of tapir to play a vital role in the preservation of his species, as his brother Vasan and sister Indah were before him.

Malaysian tapirs, related to rhinos and horses, are native to the forests of Malaysia, Thailand, Burma and Sumatra where they feed on shoots and leaves, but the species is endangered due to habitat loss and hunters who prize them for their meat.

The animals are also prey for large carnivores such as tigers and leopards.

Conservationists predict that they will decline by more than 50% in the next 36 years.

The species is also difficult to breed in captivity as the animals can be aggressive towards one another.

Karen Stiven, senior hoofstock keeper at Edinburgh Zoo, said: "Tapir pairings are notoriously difficult to get right and many zoos struggle with breeding.

"We believe our two genuinely care for each other and that is why we are lucky enough to have a third baby arrive from this pair.

"These new arrivals play a vital role in the worldwide breeding programme for this endangered species.

"Zoos provide the last insurance policy against extinction and for staff working with these animals, you actually feel you are helping create a happy and healthy breeding environment which can make all the difference."

Unusual courtship

Kamal and Sayang were separated from Ka to give the mother and infant time to bond.

Ms Stiven said: "We separated Sayang and Ka for around four weeks as mothers can be overprotective in the early stages, but Ka has now rejoined his family during the day and they are doing well.

"He's not really interested in Kamal though, all he wants to do is make another one as he's coming in to season again around now."

They have unusual, long flexible noses that they use to forage for food, and are known for their unusual courtship ritual which involves an assortment of wheezing and whistling sounds.

They will then sniff each other, walking around in circles before mating.

After a gestation period of 13 months the female gives birth to one calf.

They also have poor eyesight, which makes them rely heavily on their excellent senses of smell and hearing.

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