Dot-dash-dash. The little tapir and Morse code

Director´s view

Miroslav Bobek  |  02. 05. 2020

.--. .-. .- --. ..- . / --.. --- --- / .-- --- ..- .-.. -.. / .-.. .. -.- . / - --- / .- -. -. --- ..- -. -.-. . 
and so on.

Photo: Miroslav Bobek, Zoo Praha Photo: Miroslav Bobek, Zoo Praha

On Monday, at half past eight, just before we reopened, Prague Zoo telegraphed to the world that the recently born male Malayan tapir had been named Morse.

Little Morse is one of the most splendid cubs to have been born (or hatched) at our zoo during the quarantine period. I could explain at length just what makes such a small tapir so special, but all you must do is simply look at him. That nose! Those eyes. The ears and, of course, his colouring! Cream dots and dashes on chocolate brown fur. This combination gets to everyone. Dot-dash-dot-dot-dash.

As soon as we published the first photo of our tapir cub, enthusiastic comments began to flow in underneath it. In one of them, Mrs Jitka Vrbová remarked that the small tapir’s colouring reminds her of Morse code. A few days later, the world-famous primatologist and ethologist Frans de Waal published the same observation on his profile. They led us in the direction that ultimately resulted in us choosing to name him Morse.

But truth be told, I’m quite surprised that a global scientific celebrity commented on our tapir. A thought flashed through my head “Isn't World Tapir Day soon?”. And sure enough. Monday, April 27th, is World Tapir Day – as well as Morse Code Day! So, we soon agreed to baptise our tapir with the name Morse, and we also started our plan to broadcast news of his name in Morse code.

Immediately after we released the news to the world, I had other worries on my plate. After forty-five days, the zoo opened its gates to visitors once more. But the coincidence kept going round my head. Malayan tapir cubs are dotted as if someone had used them to make notes in Morse code - and World Tapir Day and Morse Code Day fall on the same day. A fluke?

The day before yesterday, I did a little research. It’s clear about Morse code. Its inventor Samuel F. B. Morse was born on April 27th, 1791. But what about tapirs? Was someone joking when they linked the tapir’s day with Morse Code Day? It took a while, but I found out that it wasn’t the case. World Tapir Day is associated with a female Central American tapir named April. She lived in a zoo in Belize, and because the country’s national animal is the tapir, her birthday celebrations always took place on April 27th. When she was sixteen in 1999, even CNN broadcast a piece about her. And so, after a while, April’s birthday became World Tapir Day.

So, until this year, it was a complete coincidence that April 27th was both Morse Code Day and World Tapir Day. As of this year, however, there is a link between them – our male Malayan tapir named Morse.