A handsome hybrid
in the San Francisco Zoo,
San Francisco, California
Photo by Sheryl Todd, about 1968
This unusual tapir is a cross between a Baird's tapir and a Brazilian (T. bairdii x T. terrestris). We encountered her one day while walking through the zoo in San Francisco, speculated on her parentage, and later found out from the curator of mammals that she was in fact a hybrid. Unfortunately, I don't have access to his letter at this time and can't be more specific. I'm also working on getting some better prints made, as these photos were scanned from a proof sheet.
We were also informed that the San Francisco Zoo kept an offspring of this tapir. It was also a hybrid, of course, with the other parent being a true Brazilian tapir (see links below). We learned that another zoo may have displayed two Baird's/Brazilian hybrids of the same parentage as the one shown above, but that records had been lost.
The tapir shown here is a large one - it appeared to be as large as any Baird's tapir I've seen, and the Baird's tapir is usually larger than the Brazilian. In addition, the females of all tapir species are usually larger than the males. The markings and conformation of this animal are striking. Note the sagittal crest - just a little less pronounced than that of most Brazilian tapirs - and the light throat and face markings common to the Baird's tapir. What really stands out, though, is the rigid demarcation line on her face, almost resembling a bandit's or raccoon's mask. I have not personally seen this color pattern on any other tapir.
All tapirs are endangered species.
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