Denver Zoo staff save life of baby tapir, Dumadi, during troubled birth

Baby calf, Dumadi, walking, swimming just fine

DENVER - Swift reactions by Denver Zoo staffers helped save the life of a baby Malayan tapir during birth complications.

On Sept. 3, the mother tapir, Rinny, had trouble freeing the baby from inside its amniotic sac.

Zoo staff member Rebecca McCloskey safely separated the mother and the male calf and then freed the newborn from the sac, zoo officials said.

Then McCloskey and zoo veterinarian Gwen Jankowski gave the baby "mouth-to-snout rescue breaths" and manually stimulated the baby to help him breath and expel liquid from his lungs, officials said.

After a few minutes of rescue efforts, the infant began breathing on his own.

"It's always a little scary when something like this happens, but thankfully we all have great resources and training," said McCloskey, assistant curator for the zoo's Toyota Elephant Passage exhibit. "It was such a relief to see him finally take those first breaths."

The calif, named Dumadi, is now walking and swimming just fine.

Dumadi, named for the Indonesian word meaning "becoming," is the first birth for both Rinny and his father, Benny.

Though they are most closely related to horses and rhinos, tapirs are similar in build to pigs, but significantly larger. Tapirs noses and upper lips are extended to form a long prehensile snout similar to a stubby version of an elephant’s trunk, zoo officials said.

"Malayan tapirs are the largest of the four tapir species. They stand more than 3-feet-tall and can stretch from between 6 to 8-feet-long. They can also weigh more than 1,100 pounds. They are also excellent swimmers and spend much of their time in water. They can even use their flexible noses as snorkels!" the zoo said.

"As adults, Malayan tapirs have a distinctive color pattern that some people say resembles an Oreo cookie, with black front and back parts separated by a white or gray midsection. This provides excellent camouflage that breaks up the tapir’s outline in the shadows of the forest. By contrast, young tapirs have color patterns that more resemble brown watermelons with spots and stripes which help them blend into the dappled sunlight and leaf shadows of the forest and protect them from predators," the zoo said.

Malayan tapirs are the only tapir native to Asia. Once found throughout Southeast Asia, they now inhabit only the rainforests of the Indochinese peninsula and Sumatra. With a wild population of less than 2,000 individuals they are classified as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature due to habitat loss and hunting.

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