The tapir is a large browsing mammal that is related to horses and rhinoceroses. Four species of tapir range throughout forested habitats of Central and South America and Southeast Asia. All are considered vulnerable or endangered. Habitat destruction and hunting are the main threats to these species.

In 2008, Minnesota Zoo provided funding to help cover costs of the 4th International Tapir Symposium in Mexico. This symposium brought together researchers and zoo staff to promote communication and education about tapir ecology, behavior, care, and conservation. Staff champions for this project were Tom Ness, Tropics Supervisor, and Laurie Trechsel, Tropics Zoologist.