Meek forest giant is best left alone to munch and frolic in surf

Terry J. Conroy photo
Hey, guys, got any more bananas?

Expats could live in Costa Rica for years and never encounter the shy forest giant, the tapir.

That probably is a good thing because the animal, which can grow to 700 pounds, can knock a full-grown man into unconsciousness. Ask former environmental minister Carlos Manuel Rodríguez Echandi who had a run-in with such a critter, called a dante in Spanish. The scene was in the Parque Nacional Corcovado, and Rodríguez was among the missing for several days.

Famed hunter and collector Frank Buck also recounts in his biography nearly being killed by a tapir. He still called the creature the meekest of animals.

The animals are very protective of their much smaller young. They also are considered a match for large crocodiles and jaguars.But there is another location near the park on the Osa peninsula where visitors can see groups of these creatures. Some even like to frolic in the surf.

Terry J. Conroy of the Lookout Inn Lodge submitted the photo above. He said that this critter was at a banana station Saturday night munching away. Then he was on the beach at 6 a.m. to the delight of guests.

Conroy said that there are three others that roam the area around the inn.

He calls his place “my off the grid, end of the road, remote, no cell service lodge . . .  on the Osa peninsula.  His Web page documents the animal playing in the surf.

The animals are Baird’s tapir, Tapirus bairdii, that are the largest mammal in Costa Rica. They are considered a threatened species, and hunting them in Costa Rica is illegal, although the law does not always stop some locals.

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