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Unusual looking animals highlight at zoo

PUBLISHED: 00:17 28 February 2002 | UPDATED: 11:27 03 March 2010

IS it a bear? Is it an anteater? No - it's a tapir, and it's ticklish!

TV presenter Shauna Lowry is set to turn the spotlight on these unusual creatures in Anglia's Wild at Heart series at 5.

IS it a bear? Is it an anteater? No – it's a tapir, and it's ticklish!

TV presenter Shauna Lowry is set to turn the spotlight on these unusual creatures in Anglia's Wild at Heart series at 5.30pm this Sunday, and I have to say this picture got me oohing and aahing.

As regular readers will know, I'm a real animal-lover – and I'm hoping to make the trip to Linton Zoo in Cambridgeshire to have a snout at these creatures myself.

However, not being a TV celeb, I don't suppose I'll be allowed to get quite as close to them as Shauna did.

Apparently, many people who see tapirs at the zoo just can't work out what they are, until they look at the sign that is, and wonder if they are anteaters, armadillos or aardvarks.

In fact, though, their closest relatives are horses and rhinos – though they don't bear all that much resemblance to either!

Tapirs hail from the jungle and forest lands of Central and South America, as well as South-east Asia, and altogether there are four different species, all of them endangered.

These water-loving creatures can weigh as much as 350 to 800 pounds, and I'm told they are mostly gentle, but sometimes throw toddler-style tantrums.

As you'll know if you saw the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, these are the creatures Stanley Kubrick chose to inhabit his prehistoric world – probably because they look a bit like mini-dinosaurs.

They have quite a few prehistoric characteristics and have been referred to as "living fossils" and the "creatures that time forgot". My kids have been known to say much the same about me!

WEBLINK

www.tapirback.com

This website will tell you everything you ever wanted to know about tapirs, and you can even order beanie toys to help save the species.

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