Pee Wee, a Baird's tapir, eats a watermelon at Brevard Zoo. The 550-pound Pee Wee was one of the earliest animals featured at the zoo when it opened in 1994.
Brevard County, FL (Florida Today) -- One of the original animals at Brevard Zoo, a tapir named Pee Wee, died Wednesday during a medical procedure to his toe.
He was 21.
It was the second sad day during the past month for zoo staff, which also lost a 4½-year-old cheetah in May to pancreatitis.
Wee, a 550-pound male Baird's tapir, had long been suffering a chronic
toe infection and died during a procedure to surgically treat the
Always a popular attraction, Pee Wee lived at Brevard Zoo since its inception in 1994. He had come to Brevard from a Miami zoo.
"He was a great animal, he'll really be missed," said Keith Winsten, Brevard Zoo's director.
The exact cause of Pee Wee's death remains uncertain. Tapirs can live up to 30 years.
"We don't know at this point," Winsten said. "During his procedure, his vitals started dropping, we stopped the procedure."
But the tapir could not be saved.
Wee was one of three tapirs at the zoo. He had been housed with
Josephine and sired six offspring while at the zoo, including Tootsie,
the baby female Baird's tapir, born April 6. Baird's tapirs, the
national animal of Belize, have historically been found in southeastern
Mexico through northern Colombia to the Gulf of Guayaquil in Ecuador. In
Belize, they're known as the mountain cow.
tapir populations have been in decline and are believed to number less
than 5,500 individuals. The International Union for Conservation of
Nature, a global environmental group, currently lists the species as
early this year, the captive tapir population consisted of 22 males and
10 females in 19 accredited facilities, including Brevard Zoo.
2005, Brevard Zoo has funded tapir field conservation projects through
the Institute for Ecological Research in Central America. The zoo
provided funding for four radio collars to track tapirs and collect data
regarding their habitat use and foraging. The zoo's Quarters for
Conservation program is expected to provide up to $3,000 to support
tapir field conservation programs this year.
Pee Wee passed away, Brevard Zoo staff had already been mourning the
death of Basil, a 4½-year-old female cheetah they had to euthanize in
May after the animal suffered a sudden onset of pancreatitis.
"He's had a good long life," Winsten said of Pee Wee. "He's gonna be missed."