The first arrival of 2014 at the Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society is most likely to be a bouncing baby tapir. On December 27, 2013, zookeepers noticed Alyssa, a female Baird’s tapir, was showing signs of pregnancy. Veterinary staff performed an ultrasound that day, and detected a heartbeat. Zookeepers predict Alyssa will give birth to a tapir calf within the next one to two weeks.
Alyssa has given birth to one tapir, Timmy, who became known for tipping over when he would lose his balance from what was later determined to be a double ear infection. Because Alyssa rejected Timmy when he was born, zookeepers have been researching methods they hope will encourage her to allow this baby to nurse, should she show a tendency to reject the calf.
“We are extremely excited to be expecting a tapir calf in the near future,” said Nancy Nill, Associate Curator for the Zoo. “They are an endangered species, so every birth is important.
A “Tapir Team” of Zoo staff is on standby, and a birthing plan has already been accepted in preparation of a possible delivery. Human contact with Alyssa will be kept to the “Tapir Team” to prevent stressing her and increasing the risk of her rejecting the calf.
Alyssa is currently being monitored in her habitat, and she is sleeping in a special holding yard overnight in case of a nighttime birth. The tapir habitats have been “baby proofed,” and Alyssa is receiving weekly ultrasounds, which have shown the physical development of the unborn calf. Zookeepers are checking her multiple times per day, looking for physical signs that she is preparing to deliver.
“Alyssa has been allowing us to ultrasound her and palpate her udders to track if she is producing milk yet or not. These help us better pinpoint when she might give birth,” Nill said. “Ultimately, only Alyssa knows when she will deliver.”