Sunday, January 30, 2011

Tapir Tracks at Point Defiance Zoo

Tacoma, Washington ~ August 27, 2006

Some of the things you find on the pavement are just unique. It almost made my day when I looked down and found tapir tracks embedded in the concrete at Point Defiance (only "almost" because we still had the real tapirs to visit). Zoos are doing a lot more these days to enhance the educational and fun value of the grounds as well as creating interesting habitat for what's inside the enclosures.

Pictured above is a tapir's rear footprint. Since the zoo has Asian tapirs, I'm assuming they took a mold from their Asian tapirs to use when they poured the concrete - and anyway, the footprint of each species has its own conformation. An Asian tapir print might possibly be confused with a Baird's tapir, but probably not with the other two species. The hind foot of every tapir species has three toes, and each toe is encased in its own separate hoof. Interesting, yes? Tapirs have feet that are totally unique in the animal world.

Now it gets even more interesting. Here you see a hind foot (below) with the forefoot superimposed over it, obliterating part of the track. This is a typical footprint pattern of tapirs. Note that the front foot has the prints of four toes. All tapirs have four toes on each front foot, but sometimes the tracks imprint in such a way as to make it appear that there are five toes. The tapir is not the only animal that steps in its own tracks. Check out these prints of big cat footprints, too.

See tapir feet here and tapir footprints here. Thanks, Point Defiance Zoo, for making your pavement so interesting and educational!

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