A Malayan tapir called Kingut has been officially recognized as the oldest tapir in captivity at the grand old age of 41 years 45 days.
He has already far exceeded his species' typical life expectancy of 25–30 years – and, according to his keeper, is still very much "in good form" and "loving life".
This superlative senior citizen originally hails from Indonesia. He was born to Gemba and Darti at Ragunan Zoo in Jakarta, Indonesia, on 27 January 1978. Back then, he went under the name Huta.
Arriving in the UK in 1992, aged 14, Huta not only got a new home but also his new name. He initially lived at Port Lympne Hotel & Reserve, which is part of conservation charity The Aspinall Foundation. Located in Kent, UK, the wildlife park covers more than 240 hectares (600 acres).
Over the subsequent 27 years, he has spent his time between Port Lympne and its nearby sister park, Howletts – also managed by The Aspinall Foundation – participating in breeding programmes for these endangered mammals. In 2008, he made his final move back to Port Lympne, where he has been enjoying his retirement ever since, becoming one of its oldest inhabitants.
Today, Kingut shares his home with four other Malayan tapirs. All Kingut’s "pen pals" are many years his junior, ranging from between four and 13.
Each has its own "bedroom" in specially heated, spacious accommodation. That's because these animals are by nature quite solitary and like their own space – particularly so with Kingut, now he is in his advanced years.
Malayan tapirs are the largest tapir species and the only one found outside the New World. In the wild, these shy ungulates dwell in the dense rainforests of Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Myanmar. They can reach up to 107 cm (3 ft 6 in) tall – about the same as a red deer stag.
Owing to their stocky build, extra-large males can weigh in excess of 500 kg (1,100 lb), which is more than a grand piano!
The smallest tapir species, by contrast, is the kabomani tapir of South America, which weighs around 110 kg (240 lb) fully grown. This species was only discovered in 2013.
In January, amid a light snow flurry, Kingut saw in his 41st birthday (see video below) with a cake made from some of his favourite sweet treats, including bananas, apples and carrots.
Alice Elliot, tapir keeper at Port Lympne, told us what it's like to care for a record-breaking geriatric: "We’re all very proud of Kingut. Not just because he is so old, but because he is such a character. Of all the animals I've ever worked with, he has one of the most memorable characters. Everyone that has ever worked with Kingut loves him!"
Alice couldn’t praise his personality enough: "Kingut is definitely the friendliest and most people-oriented of our tapirs [and he] gets lots of fuss every day. If he sees any of the other tapirs getting attention, he gets jealous!"
"He is one of the most well-behaved and reliable tapirs too; [it’s] easy to move him around. Some of the tapirs can be quite stubborn, but he’s always happy to cooperate."
"He does have a mischievous streak," she added. "Particularly in his younger days, he was known to chase the occasional keeper across the paddock! He doesn't do that so much any more as he feels his age, but you don’t take that for granted…"
Port Lympne's Animal Director, Simon Jeffery, also has a soft spot for Kingut: "He is a great character here at the park. The public love him and he’s been on TV a few times.
"We obviously must be doing something right given that Kingut is now officially the oldest Malayan tapir in the world!"
To see Kingut in all his snouty glory – and find out what a typical day looks like for him – be sure to check out our exclusive video featuring him and his primary keeper, Alice, at the top of this article.