South American tapir calf born at Chicago's Brookfield Zoo

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Keepers at Chicago's Brookfield Zoo are over the moon about the birth of a male South American tapir calf on 22 May.

Zoo guests will be able to see 11-year-old mom Sorghum and her yet-to-be-named calf indoors at their Pachyderm House until the weather warms and they can enter their outdoor habitat.

Following a 13-month gestation, Sorghum gave birth to the approximately 20-pound calf. Throughout her pregnancy, the zoo's veterinary staff was able to monitor the fetus with regular ultrasounds.

Sorghum arrived at Brookfield Zoo in September 2020, and Sonny, the calf's sire, a few years earlier in 2017. Baby tapirs are born with white stripes, which serve as excellent camouflage.

The stripes begin to fade after a few months and are completely gone by six months of age. The calf will nurse from its mom as long as milk is being produced. It will reach full size at about 18 months of age, and is considered mature at two to four years old. Tapirs have thick skin and are classified as a pachyderm.

The South American tapir is one of four species of tapir that lives in the Americas, with adults reaching around 2.5 to 4 feet tall, and 6 to 8 feet long. Their streamlined bodies make them excellent swimmers, and they can also run fast in short bursts. The species has a distinctive crest on the top of the head and a mane that runs between its forehead and shoulders.

The species is found in moist swamp forests and shrublands, grasslands, and a wide variety of wetlands in north and central South America, including Paraguay, Brazil, Colombia, Argentina, and Peru. It is the continent's largest native land mammal and is listed as "vulnerable" on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources' (IUCN) Red List.

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