COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- One of the rare mountain tapir at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo passed away Tuesday. According to the zoo, Carlotta was one of only seven mountain tapir in the U.S.
CMZoo said studying Carlotta throughout her life contributed to the care of all mountain tapir in human care. Michelle Salido, the lead tapir keeper at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, said Carlotta being at the zoo was special.
“Most people had never heard of a mountain tapir before coming to Cheyenne Mountain Zoo,” said Salido. “Once they met Carlotta, they fell in love with her and her species. She was sweet and gentle. She loved to get chin scratches from guests. I love knowing that we helped thousands of people connect with an animal that’s critically endangered in the wild and extremely rare in zoos.”
Carlotta's cause of death is suspected to be gastrointestinal issues complicated by her advanced age.
At 27, Carlotta was the oldest female mountain tapir ever in human care in the U.S. At the time of her death, she was also the oldest living mountain tapir in human care by three years.
CMZoo said because mountain tapir are so rare in human care, not much is known about their life expectancies.
According to the zoo, fewer than 2,500 adult mountain tapir are remaining in their native Andes Mountains in South America.
Now, Cofan, a 17-year-old male, is the only mountain tapir at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. The other five live at Los Angeles Zoo.
“Carlotta’s passing made me stop and think about how lucky we were to know her,” said Bob Chastain, CMZoo
president and CEO. “It’s not only because she was a wonderful ambassador for her species in the wild, but because
her species is so rarely seen at any zoo in the world.”
Chastain also reflected on other endangered animals at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.
“Losing her made me think of the many unique individuals in our care, and how it’s our honor and responsibility to help people learn about them,” said Chastain. “I try to convey how lucky we are to give our community the chance to meet Amur leopards, an Eastern black rhino, or a black-footed ferret. These animals are endangered in the wild and in
human care, and it’s a rare opportunity for our community to be able to experience them all in one place.”
Out of the 241 organizations accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), Chastain said the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is home to Eastern black rhinos, black-footed ferrets, hippos, Asiatic black bears, and Pallas' cats.