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Sempurna the tapir leaving zoo for new adventures

Posted by Gigi Allianic, Communications
Photos by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo

Sempurna the Malayan tapir in 2023

Woodland Park Zoo’s 3-year-old, female Malayan tapir named Sempurna (AKA the #SeattleWatermelon) will be leaving and heading off to a new home and adventures. The last day to see Sempurna will be March 13 in the zoo’s Trail of Vines habitat. Come and wish this sweetheart well!

Sempurna will move to a zoo in North America that is accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums(AZA); Woodland Park Zoo is also an AZA-accredited zoo. The Malayan tapir Species Survival Plan made the recommendation which includes plans to breed her in the future. Sempurna’s new zoo has asked Woodland Park Zoo to help keep their name under wraps so they can welcome her with a big splash when she’s ready to meet her new community!

Sempurna in 2023 at Trail of Vines

Sempurna was born to mom Ulan and dad Bintang in June 2020, a year that Woodland Park Zoo experienced an extraordinary baby boom. On the zoo’s social media channels, hundreds of thousands of fans closely followed the “watermelon” baby growing up, taking her first swim lessons under her mama’s attentive guidance and learning how to use her trunk-like snout like a snorkel! In turn, her antics drew throngs of visitors to the zoo to see this captivating baby. A newborn tapir looks like a watermelon on legs due to its reddish-brown coat dappled with white and cream-colored spots and stripes. The striped pattern begins to fade after a few months.

"Sempurna is an inquisitive, smart, independent tapir. She learns things quickly, loves to explore and investigate her surroundings and takes things in stride. She can be quite vocal and lets us know when she wants something whether it be breakfast, snack, or dinner or wants to go inside or outside,” said Wendy Gardner, an animal keeper at Woodland Park Zoo. “It has been a privilege watching Sempurna grow from birth until now and how she became the incredible tapir that she is. She will always be our baby and will be missed."

Sempurna and mom, Ulan, in 2020

Sempurna learns to swim and snorkel with mom Ulan in 2020, most adorable swim lessons ever!

The meaning of Sempurna means “a beautiful dream, flawless” in Indonesian. “Sempurna has lived up to her name—she has truly been a beautiful dream for Woodland Park Zoo and our community. So many zoo-goers, our members and our community made a special connection with her,” said Erin Sullivan, an animal curator at Woodland Park Zoo. “We’re going to miss Sempurna, but we’re excited for her new adventures ahead.”

Tapirs are among the most primitive large mammals in the world, changing little in appearance for millions of years. These prehistoric-looking animals are long and similar to the weight of a light horse. They have a short, prehensile nose which they use to pluck leaves and fruit. Tapirs are excellent swimmers and use their snouts as snorkels! Because they have an odd number of toes (four toes on each front foot, three on each back foot), their closest relatives are horses and rhinos.

Malayan tapirs are endangered, with fewer than 2,500 remaining in the wild; they range in Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra and Myanmar.

Woodland Park Zoo partners with conservation projects in Peninsular Malaysia and Sumatra, where tapirs are found. One of the greatest threats to tapirs is loss of habitat. By protecting land for tigers, orangutans and hornbills, the zoo is also protecting land for tapirs. Protect tapirs and the forests they live in by making informed purchasing decisions and buying products with certified sustainable palm oil.

Sempurna leapt into our hearts in 2020 and she will always be our number one watermelon.