Tour Guide Stumbles Upon A ‘Dead’ Tapir — Then Realizes What’s Really Going On

She was already getting all the help she needed.

At Corcovado National Park in Puerto Jiménez, Costa Rica, wildlife is everywhere. Local tour guides — like those with Surcos Tours — are used to coming across different species of animals on their daily treks, but recently a guide saw something in the forest that stopped him in his tracks.

In front of him lay a tapir, seemingly dead, and birds of prey pecking at her fur. As he got closer, he realized what was really going on.

Spotting tapirs while wandering through the Central American rainforest isn’t unusual for those hiking with Surcos Tours. In the past, tour guides and their groups have encountered tapirs swimming across the Sirena Rivera or enjoying a meal just off the shore.

You can watch one of these moments here:

“It is a pride that our largest mammal continues to enjoy and proliferate in its natural habitat,” Surcos Tours wrote on Facebook. “In Costa Rica, they live from sea level to up 3,820 meters at our highest point.”

To some, tapir-watching might seem best when the mammal is awake. But when a tour group stumbled upon the seemingly unconscious tapir surrounded by hawks the other day, they had a front-row seat to an unbelievable act of interspecies kindness.

“Anyone who sees this video would think that the tapir is dead and that the vultures and hawks were eating her,” Surcos Tours wrote on Facebook. “In fact, what’s happening here is very interesting. During the dry season, when the number of ticks increases in the Corcovado National Park, the tapirs go out to open sites where, generally, the hawks will wait to remove the ticks.”

Despite appearances, the tapir wasn’t dead at all. Instead, she was enjoying a much-needed nap while her hungry friends feasted away on the ticks covering her body.

The tapir felt instant relief, and the local birds enjoyed a hearty snack.

“This type of relationship is very often seen between tapirs and the Caracaras (hawks) in Corcovado National Park,” Surcos Tours wrote in another Facebook post.

Surcos Tours guides are sure to stumble across more tapirs being groomed by their hawk friends in the near future.

Until then, they’ll keep soaking up the sights and sounds of their beloved national park, one incredible nature moment at a time.

To keep up with Surcos Tours’ animal spotting, you can follow them on Facebook.