The Tapir Gallery
Mona, a Baird's tapir
The experience of raising two tapirs was remarkable. We had acquired a young lowland tapir, Stanley K., in 1968. Two years later (November 1970), our friend, Russ Mittermeier, was in Panama studying turtles and primates when he encountered a baby Baird's tapir in the marketplace. She was being offered for sale for the equivalent of $50.00 U.S. Whether she would have become someone's dinner, or whether she would have been held onto until another naturalist or an animal dealer could have been found is anyone's guess. As these tapirs were not yet on the Endangered Species List, it was not too difficult for Russ to buy her and have her shipped to California.
We picked her up at the airport in Los Angeles and drove her back to Claremont in our van. I sat in the back with the crate and its cargo while Bob drove. It was clear she wasn't at all happy about staying in there. At some point Bob pulled over so we could let her out. We calmed her down and talked to her for awhile and wondered what to call her. Bob had had painted a simplified version of Leonardo's Mona Lisa on one side of the van, and while going back to the driver's-side door, he walked past this painting. When he climbed back in, he said to me, "Let's call her Mona." So that's where her name came from. I remember she became intensely interested in licking the dust off the spare tire for most of the rest of the trip home. It was a good thing, because even a little tapir can be a handful.
I always thought she was an especially beautiful animal, with an apricot or gold color on her throat as an adult, along with the typical cream.
She was about a month old when we got her, and at the age of about eight months we gave her to the San Diego Zoo. There she had a long and productive life, a mate named Titus Sr., and a number of offspring. She finally had to be euthanized in 1994, at the age of 25, due to severe arthritis in her knees and neck. During her long life, her photo had graced the face of a Nicaraguan postage stamp. I have a copy and will put it up on the site one day soon.
The photos in this series were taken in Claremont, California, in 1970. This was the first weekend after we had picked Mona up at the airport. Throughout the series, I'm trying to feed her a banana, getting her to pose.
Two rolls of film were shot and the proof sheets printed by Bruce Wilson. The scans on these pages were made directly from the proof sheets. Eventually, 8 x 10 prints will be made, and I can do some higher quality scans. But all things considered, these shots are pretty good!
OTHER PHOTOS OF MONA
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