(COLORADO SPRINGS) — The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo (CMZoo) sadly announced the death of two rare and endangered animals that died on Thursday, Oct. 6.

CMZoo’s 19-year-old mountain tapir, Cofan, and 14-year-old Mexican wolf matriarch, Luna, died in unrelated situations, according to a press release.

“The Zoo is pausing to honor their conservation contributions while acknowledging the frightening future many species face,” said CMZoo.

Both Cofan and Luna were elderly and had experienced age-related conditions in recent years, per CMZoo. Cofan was humanely euthanized after veterinary measures failed to revive him from a severe two-day downturn. Luna was found in her den, all signs pointing to a peaceful passing, said CMZoo.

“With Cofan’s passing, there’s a literal empty space at the Zoo and figuratively in tapir fans’ hearts,” stated CMZoo.

  • Mountain Tapir Cofan
  • Mountain Tapir Cofan
  • Mountain Tapir Cofan
  • Mountain Tapir Cofan
  • Mountain Tapir Cofan
  • Mountain Tapir Cofan

The Zoo added that the chance to ever see a mountain tapir up-close again is bleak. According to the Zoo, only four mountain tapirs remain in human care in the United States, all of which are residing at the Los Angeles Zoo. Unlike Luna, Cofan did not leave behind a legacy of offspring to keep the species going.

In 2014, Cofan arrived at the CMZoo as a breeding partner to Carlotta, a female mountain tapir that called CMZoo home since 1995. It was determined that Carlotta was beyond her breeding years after years of attempts, which included artificial insemination and natural breeding. Carlotta died in 2021.

“Cofan was a sweetheart,” said Joanna Husby, animal care manager at CMZoo. “Every year on World Tapir Day, we’d invite the public to come right up to his fence and scratch his chin. People would travel from all over to meet him, and he always chose to stay right where we could give him scratches. He seemed to love his role as an ambassador, and I believe he inspired our members to support wild tapir conservation. Without Cofan and Carlotta, they would never have taken interest in those causes.”

Both Carlotta’s and Cofan’s bodies have been donated to the Denver Museum of Nature & Science for scientific study. CMZoo stated that their losses provide a rare opportunity to further the knowledge of their species.

“The end was in sight at that point, but now having lost both of them, it’s right in front of us,” said CMZoo.

There are an estimated 2,500 mountain tapirs remaining in the native habitats of Ecuador, per CMZoo. Largely due to CMZoo’s member vote through its Quarters for Conservation program, more than $135,000 has been contributed to wild tapir conservation.

  • Mexican Wolf Luna
  • Mexican Wolf Luna
  • Mexican Wolf Luna
  • Mexican Wolf Luna
  • Mexican Wolf Luna

Luna’s contributions to conservation were more literal, said CMZoo.

Luna arrived at the Zoo in October 2016, followed by her mate, Navarro who came to the zoo in November 2017. In May 2018, the two first-time parents welcomed their first litter of Mexican wolves born at the Zoo in 20 years. Luna and Navarro welcomed another pup the following spring who was named Uno.

“Luna embraced motherhood while inspiring human visitors with her gentle leadership, playful demeanor and up-close curiosity from behind the one-way glass in her habitat at the Zoo,” said CMZoo. “Moreover, she taught her yearling pups how to parent by letting the older siblings closely observe her labor, birth and the upbringing of Uno in 2019.”

Five of Luna’s six total offspring were female, two of which have already gone to form their own packs at different organizations that also participate in the Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan (SSP). SSP is a multi-organizational effort to breed Mexican wolves with maximum genetic diversity. The organization works to diversify endangered wild populations through efforts such as cross-fostering and the release of pups and adults born in human care into the wild. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service estimates there are only around 196 Mexican wolves in the wild in the U.S.

“We believe it is our job to be a place where people can care about and see some of the world’s most endangered species,” said Bob Chastain, President and CEO at CMZoo. “Further, because people come to the Zoo and support us through the conservation donation… we get to make a difference for mountain tapir and gray wolves and many other species in the wild.”