Monday, November 17, 2008

Of tapirs and monkeys

On a visit to Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo in the summer of 2007, I was fortunate to see some of my favorite critters in action. Imagine my surprise, though, when I saw a monkey (I don't know what species) climb atop a Baird's tapir (Tapirus bairdii) and go for a ride. Yes, A MONKEY RIDING A TAPIR. I almost peed my pants.

The sociable simian went on to (apparently) groom the tapir.

Note that this was a Baird's tapir, native to Central and South America, not to be confused with the distinct, but similarly compelling, Mayalan tapir (Tapirus indicus) featured in my 2007 post, "The screaming hose-nose."

Apparently these behaviors are not uncommon, at least in zoos; for example, this fellow observed a gibbon apparently grooming a tapir. These observations in monkey-tapir interactions are strangely comforting to me - that is, I'm glad to know that I'm not the only primate who finds tapirs so compelling. Let the record show, however, that I do not aspire to ride or groom tapirs myself. Even David Attenborough kept a respectful distance from a tapir in the "Plant Predators" episode of The Life of Mammals - apparently they can be rather vicious when they feel threatened (tapirs, that is, not Sir David, though I honestly can't be sure about the latter).

I'll post a movie of the monkey-tapir interaction when I get around to it.

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