Tapirs eat fruit, seeds, berries and leaves. They can also be fed vegetables while in captivity. Tapirs feed on different plants in the wild, and they defecate seeds, which replenishes plant life in their tracks.
Tapirs are herbivores that primarily live in forests and grasslands. They are mostly nocturnal, and they search for food using their trunks. However, some tapirs are more active during the day than others, such as the Andes mountain tapir. Tapirs are also flexible enough to grab food that is seemingly out of reach. They feed each morning and evening, at which point they traverse through worn paths walked by other tapirs. Tapirs follow these trails to find water spots and other feeding areas.
Tapirs also use their noses to search for fallen fruit, and they use their trunks to strip leaves from branches. They can eat as much as 85 pounds of vegetation in a single day. Tapirs can also swim in search of underwater plant life and use the water to cool their bodies. They often remain around water areas to find softer forms of vegetation. Tapirs have similar stomachs to horses and are hindgut fermenters, allowing them to ferment food in the cecum, which is the starting point of the large intestine.