From Sharon... This story recently appeared in The Reporter newspaper.

April has been a mountain cow special month for over 25 years. The Belize Zoo has been celebrating April the tapir’s birthday for, can you believe, 29 years!  When this fun event first started, only a handful of people would show up for the celebration.  Today, many of the children who attended the first mountain cow birthday parties, have children of their own.

April the tapir’s birthday celebrations have brought  an increased awareness about her species to thousands of people in Belize.  What’s so important about our National Animal?  The Central American tapir, “mountain cow”,  is a vital animal when it comes to keeping a tropical forest healthy and in balance.  They are seed dispersers, providing a living legacy for the growth of a forest that is lush and robust in its plant species.   A healthy forest sustains not only tapirs.  Many species of tropical animals, birds and reptiles, which are unique to our region, require good habitat for their survival.   But besides their scientific contributions to the ecological profile of Belize, our mountain cow is simply a beautiful, sweet-tempered, and very huggable beast, and April the tapir would certainly agree with this point of view!  She will proudly display her charismatic character on Friday, the 27th of April, as we celebrate her 29th birthday at the zoo.

In the early days of The Belize Zoo,  scores of people were unfamiliar with the National Animal of Belize.  And many people believed that they were dangerous animals.  It was a common myth that the Central American tapir could “skin a man alive with its flexible nose”…..April the tapir helped her species in a huge way by erasing this myth from our animal-perspective outlooks.  She has met thousands of adults and children and has never skinned anyone alive with her flexible nose.  If the old girl could talk, she would tell visitors that her flexible snout is used to pull leaves from trees in order to keep her big body happily filled up with greens.

The celebration will be complemented by the celebration of World Tapir Day and, HOOORAY!!!  National Tapir Day.   For over five years, the 27th of April has been proclaimed as World Tapir Day.   Zoo Education Officer Jamal Andrewin, believing that Belize should officially join in with this noted animal celebration, introduced the concept of National Tapir Day, to the Belize government.  Receiving a nod of approval from our decision-makers, as well as sign on support from over a dozen NGOs, National Tapir Day is now here in Belize.

National Tapir Day will serve to bring about a greater awareness, countrywide, about our National Animal,  an Endangered species, to many people.  Providing a strong public profile for our special National Animal, the Central American tapir, will ensure that our future generations will proudly be able to say, that mountain cows live protected and respected in our nation.

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