During a recent dinner run, Scott was driving the 4-wheeler down a sanctuary road heading towards Rana, to deliver her evening meal. He was moving relatively quickly, because no one else was near, and he wanted to finish up before things got dark. As he was driving, he caught something out of the corner of his eye, and it was George the tapir running at full speed, making his familiar cricket-like call. Scott slowed down a bit and George ran directly in front of him, leading Scott down the road. George eventually began following Scott again, but still at a rapid pace.
This is not normal behavior for George or any other tapir, even though he is the rescue-and-release animal that we see most frequently. As we have mentioned before, sometimes rescue animals will return when they need medical care, because they know this is a safe place. Rehabilitated wildlife seem to have an intuition to go to a familiar place if they need help.
We aren’t exactly sure of the reason behind his recent neediness, but it’s possible that something outside the habitat is currently frightening him, so he decided he wanted to be near the humans he knows. He wasn’t as frequent a visitor until last year’s wildfire, when he began making recurring appearances – but the attention-seeking contact with us is not something he’s done before.
Generally, we do not encourage contact with animals who have been released back into the wild. But, in George’s case, there may be some unknown situation that is clearly bothersome. We can only assume, though we don’t know for sure, that something is wrong, although he does not appear to have any injuries. So, for now, he is getting a bit of a free pass – but it is not our intention for this to be a permanent arrangement. Hopefully he will become more secure and be able to return to his normal routine soon.
Video of George, eventually wandering off into the habitat