A three-week-old female Baird’s tapir calf at the Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society now has a name, voted upon by students at Palmetto Elementary School in West Palm Beach, Florida. With 258 votes, Luna is the winning name, versus 75 votes for Sandía, and 112 votes for Dulce. Zookeeper April Winters, a primary keeper for the Zoo’s Baird’s tapirs, chose the three options from which the students chose.
“We wanted to honor the native environment where Baird’s tapirs naturally roam, so she has a Spanish name, since that’s the language spoken in Central America,” explained Jan Steele, General Curator for the Zoo. “We are thrilled that Luna can now be introduced by name, as an ambassador for her species.”
Zoo supporter Nancy Rogers sponsored the naming rights for the tapir calf, then donated the rights back to the Zoo so local students could choose a name. Palmetto Elementary School students were shown a photo of the calf and received a lesson about endangered Baird’s tapirs, before each student was allowed to cast one vote.
Luna, which translates to “moon,” was one of the options, since the tapir calf was born at night on February 17, 2014. The calf now weighs 49.3 pounds, and continues to gain at least one pound every day, which is normal for tapirs. Veterinary staff said Luna is active and energetic, and remains in excellent health. Her mother, Alyssa, continues to nurse her, and zookeepers said a strong bond between the two tapirs is apparent. Luna is out on exhibit at the Zoo every day, along with Alyssa.
The sex ratio within the North American Baird’s tapir captive population is skewed towards males, so the birth of a female is significant. The Zoo participates in the Baird’s Tapir Species Survival Plan (SSP) through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) to maintain a genetically diverse and demographically stable population of animals. Every successful birth, such as Luna’s, is critical for this endangered species.