Is it a pig, or an elephant?

No, it’s more closely related to a horse…

We were watching a salt lick at Napo Wildife Lodge in the Amazon Basin, waiting for the parrots to descend, and instead we were incredibly lucky to get a front-row viewing of a young male tapir.

Tapir

Like the parrots, they need the minerals in the clay, especially sodium, to supplement their diet of leaves, shoots and fruit. He stayed for a long time (despite being aware of our presence) the size of a small pony, and apparently not yet full grown.  They have a mournful face, with a long floppy proboscis made of their nose and lips, and a fleshy crest running from the top of the head back to the shoulders.

Tapir

And a very pink tongue.

Tapir

The Quichua guides who helped us find bears also help a biologist to collar tapirs (the mountain tapirs are slightly smaller), and Rodrigo proudly showed me this photo:

Tapir

PS: The flock of parrots never came, because a hawk came down and took one, and spooked the rest. But watch this space for a different salt lick.

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