Brookfield Zoo welcomes its first tapir calf in nearly 30 years

  • A South American tapir calf was born at Brookfield Zoo on May 22.

    A South American tapir calf was born at Brookfield Zoo on May 22. Courtesy of Brookfield Zoo

  • Brookfield Zoo visitors will be able to catch a glimpse of a newborn South American tapir calf at the Pachyderm House. Once the weather warms up, mother and calf will use their outdoor habitat on the building's north side.

    Brookfield Zoo visitors will be able to catch a glimpse of a newborn South American tapir calf at the Pachyderm House. Once the weather warms up, mother and calf will use their outdoor habitat on the building's north side. Courtesy of Brookfield Zoo

  • A South American tapir calf was born at Brookfield Zoo on May 22.

    A South American tapir calf was born at Brookfield Zoo on May 22. Courtesy of Brookfield Zoo

 
 
Updated 5/25/2022 6:38 PM

Mother and calf make an adorable pair, nuzzling noses together.

The newest addition to Brookfield Zoo -- a South American tapir calf -- has been enjoying some behind-the-scenes bonding time with mom.

 

The zoo celebrated the newborn's arrival with a glimpse of 11-year-old Sorghum (pronounced SOAR-gum) getting snout to snout with her offspring.

The male calf is the first tapir born at Brookfield since 1993, nearly 30 years ago. A vulnerable species in the wild, tapirs are most closely related to horses and rhinoceroses.

While the youngster is still adjusting to his wobbly legs, the yet-to-be-named calf is ready to meet the public Thursday. Zoo visitors will be able to see the tapir duo indoors at Brookfield's Pachyderm House.

Baby tapirs are born with white stripes, like the rind of a watermelon. The stripes provide camouflage from predators and begin to fade after a few months.

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Sorghum gave birth to her calf, weighing in at about 20 pounds, Sunday.

Dr. Mike Adkesson, president and CEO of the Chicago Zoological Society and the zoo's director, had been anticipating the delivery for weeks.

"That'll be an exciting one for us. We've not had a tapir born in a long time here," Adkesson said in April.

Throughout the tapir's pregnancy, the zoo's veterinary staff monitored the fetus with regular ultrasounds. Animal care specialists used positive reinforcement to acclimate the 550-pound mother-to-be to the ultrasound machine and exam.

Now nursing, the tapir will reach full size at about 18 months.

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