As soon as we had determined that Sharon Matola was not on the grounds and we wouldn't be able to see her today, we entered the zoo. Our inquiries tuned up Humberto Wohlers (below), the zoo's General Curator and one of my colleagues in the IUCN/SSC Tapir Specialist Group. He was warm, gracious, and knowledgeable, and he took us immediately to the tapirs. Little Ceibo, above, was friendly and curious. There is nothing like having your hand nuzzled by one of these animals. My day was made . . .
. . . but it was not over. More famous sights awaited, such as Sharon's hand-painted signs and of course, the "very famous April the Tapir," known and mentioned (as we would learn) throughout the country.
Amazing. I had started working with Sharon in 1996 as a new member of the Tapir Specialist Group, and she had invited me to be her Deputy Chair. I'd learned about April, and in an unexpected way, my past and Sharon's present had collided through April. When April was a tiny baby, she'd been found abandoned and injured in the jungle. A screw worm had gotten inside of her through a gaping wound, and it took everything Sharon had to nurse April back to health. In the process of learning what to do with a sick baby tapir, Sharon had contacted Russell Mittermeier, who had a copy of a self-published booklet my first husband and I had produced back in the 1970s. Russ sent it to Sharon, and Sharon was kind enough to tell me it had helped. Long story short, she had heard of me by the time I approached her to join the Specialist Group. My way had been paved. Those were interesting times, and now I was meeting April. Like a star-struck groupie meeting a legend, I couldn't wait to send Kate a postcard to tell her where I was and who I had met.