Brookfield Zoo welcomes South American tapir calf


This species most closely related to the horse and rhinoceros is listed as vulnerable

The latest addition to Brookfield Zoo, a newborn South American tapir (Photo courtesy of Chicago Zoological Society).

The latest addition to Brookfield Zoo, a newborn South American tapir (Photo courtesy of Chicago Zoological Society).

The Chicago Zoological Society—which manages Brookfield Zoo—has publicized a male South American tapir calf was born on May 22, 2022. Eleven-year-old mom Sorghum gave birth to the infant who is currently unnamed.

According to an organizational release,1 the calf was about 20 lbs at birth. During Sorghum’s 13-month pregnancy, the zoo veterinary staff monitored the fetus with regular ultrasounds. Animal care specialists utilized positive reinforcement to desensitize the 550-pound mother to the sound of the ultrasound machine, the smell of rubbing alcohol and gel used on the ultrasound probe, and the sensation of the probe on her belly.

“Being able to monitor the development of the tapir fetus and the well-being of Sorghum throughout her pregnancy, is a testament to our dedicated staff and the relationship they have with the animals in their care,” commented Joan Daniels, senior curator of animals for the Chicago Zoological Society, in the release.

Sorghum made her arrival to Brookfield Zoo in September 2020, while the calf’s dad, Sonny, arrived there in 2017.

Starting May 26, 2022, visitors can view Sorghum and her calf inside at the Pachyderm House. When the weather warms up, the pair can access their outdoor habitat.

According to the release,1 the South American tapir, or the “lowland tapir,” is most closely related to the horse and rhinoceros. The species—which is South America's largest native mammal—resides in its moist swamp forests and shrublands, grasslands, and wetlands in north and central areas of the country. It is deemed as “vulnerable” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources’ (IUCN) Red List, with the population at risk due to habitat loss, hunting, and competition with domestic livestock.

The Chicago Zoological Society has offered support to the Tapir Specialist Group, a unit of the IUCN Species Survival Commission. The organization has launched projects consisting of field research in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, and French Guiana, to improve understanding of tapir biology and gain insight on protecting the species in its native land.


South American tapir born at Brookfield Zoo. News release. Chicago Zoological Society. May 24, 2022. Accessed May 25, 2022.

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