I am the Veterinary Advisor to the EAZA Malayan Tapir EEP and a member of the IUCN Tapir Specialist Group.
Breeding success of tapir (Tapirus sp.) has generally been suboptimal and captive populations are not regarded as self-sustaining. In order to improve breeding success and achieve sustainability goals, a complete understanding of tapir reproductive biology and endocrinology is needed. Reproductive hormone monitoring is a valuable breeding management tool for assessing reproductive status. Thus far, a lack of animals trained for blood sample collection has limited study size, and the invasive methodology limits application to wild populations. Zoo and Wildlife Solutions have been working with zoo vet Adam Naylor to assess a non-invasive faecal progesterone assay for use in the two most common species kept in captivity in the UK, the Malayan (Tapirus indicus) and lowland tapir (Tapirus terrestris).
For the lowland species, increased excretion during pregnancy, reduced excretion whilst on contraception, and low excretion in prepubescence provided some evidence of validity but cyclical patterns of excretion were not identified. For the Malayan species, detection of increasing excretion during late pregnancy, low excretion during prepubescence, and surges typical of luteal phase onset, provided reasonable evidence of validity.
Continued utilisation of this methodology in a larger study to improve biological validation is planned and will be used alongside other diagnostic techniques to investigate causes of abnormal cycling and poor reproductive performance in the European zoo programmes.
Tapirs suffer from a wide range of disease issues including tuberculosis, skin disease, nose-bleeds and colic. The tapir veterinary advisors for lowland and Malayan tapirs have joined forces to condut a health survey which will collect information on health issues and collate recommended diagnostic and therapeutic approaches. All tapir holders have been asked to contribute to this study.
The questionnaire can be found here.