Hello, FRIDAY! And for those not already in the know, there's another, much more novel reason to delight in this fine 27th of April, 2012... it's World Tapir Day!! Oh yes. You heard that right - today is World Tapir Day - a most fitting occassion (if one needs an excuse) to celebrate, raise awareness, and otherwise spread the good word about one of the coolest odd-toed ungulates to saunter the underbrush of equatorial rainforests: the TAPIR. *Don't be fooled by the 4 toes on each front foot - they only have three on the back! Taxonomically speaking, they are odd-toes, and all 4 species are simply amazing...
I've posted on tapirs previously, having been aquainted a few summers ago with the brilliant family of 3 living at the Franklin Park Zoo - Milton, Annie, and Tupelo are Baird's tapirs, and Tupelo, like all baby tapirs, was a heart-breakingly cute wee thing covered head to toe in spots and stripes when she was born (few things rival newborn tapirs on the squee scale...). Baird's tapirs are one of the 3 tapir species native to Central and South America, where they are the largest land mammal (Baird's are smaller than the Malayan, but larger than the Brazilian and Mountain species). The fourth species, the Malayan, or Asian tapir, calls Malaysia, Thailand, and Sumatra it's home. There is some size range between tapir species, though all fall somewhere between 300 and 750lbs in adult weight. Crepuscular or nocturnal forest dwellers, they spend most of their time forraging for vegetation with their great ungainly snout, and contrary to their somewhat dumpy appearance (and I use that term only in the most affectionate way), they are marvelous swimmers. Favorite food (in captivity, at least)? Bananas.
Below, a visual summary of Tapirdom:
In honor of this wonderous day - and the magical fantastical tapir! - I've designed a template to make your very own tapir mask out of paper! It's super simple - you just need paper to print on, scissors, glue (tape will work in a pinch, but it won't look nearly as dashing), and some string. Click the SINGLE mask graphic below for a SMALL template (will print on one 8.5 x 11 sheet and fit only a very small child's head... To make a mask of more adult-noggin proportions, click on the DOUBLE mask graphic for a LARGE template - this will print on 2 letter-sized sheet which can be cut, afixed together, then traced onto a larger, single sheet of paper before assembling). *You can print on any color paper (brown craft looks surprisingly "tapir-y") or print on white and then color to match your favorite tapir species... seriously fun stuff here - go to it!
And in the spirit of craft and contest - I'm going to add a twist - anyone who sends me a photo of themselves - or their little ones - wearing the above tapir mask, will be entered into a drawing to win a copy of my illustrated zoo book, Tropical Forest! Milton, Annie, and Tupelo are featured on page 5... so get crafting! Customization to resemble any of the 4 tapir species is encouraged... This contest will be open for 5 days 7 DAYS - I'll pick the winner at 12 noon EST next Tuesday THURSDAY! Please email your photo submission to: natalya (at) natalya (dot) com - OR tweet it to @natalya_zahn
...And for further reading/viewing: discover the tapir's propensity for "tantrums"; check out a (not too rosey... and I would 100% agree) review of the taxidermied tapirs at my beloved HMNH; and explore research and conservation efforts, because all 4 tapir species are highly endangered due to habitat loss and hunting. Most of all, have fun - tapirs are awesome!
*For more paper tapirs, check out this Japanese paper-craft website (downloadable pattern), and this origami animal site. And oh how I wish I were better at knitting... HAPPY TAPIR DAY!