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Malayan tapir

Tapirus indicus

Malayan tapir

There are five species of tapir in the world and only the Malayan tapir is native to Asia.

Malayan tapirs have large, stocky bodies which are black in white in colour. They also have a long nose, known as a proboscis. They use the proboscis as a snorkel when underwater and to grab branches, fruits or leaves off the trees. They are generally solitary animals, only socialising during breeding. When a Malayan tapir is born it is brown with beige stripes and spots, which make the calf look like a watermelon on legs. This pattern is great camouflage for the calf in the dappled sunlight of the forest. The calf loses the marking after a few months.

Belfast Zoo is home to Elmer and Gladys, the Malayan tapirs. Elmer and Gladys are one of the most successful breeding pairs in the European breeding programme. Calves born at Belfast have moved to zoos around the world to continue the conservation efforts.


Diet - Herbivore
Tapirs eat grasses, leaves, aquatic plants and twigs.

A tapir can be up to 240 centimetres (cm) long and 105cm high at the shoulder. They can weigh up to 320 kilograms.

Tapirs are found in tropical forests in Indonesia, Burma (Myanmar), Malaysia and Thailand.

Conservation status 
The IUCN believes that the Malayan tapir faces a very high risk of extinction in the wild. The species is listed under Appendix I of CITES.

Tapirs are hunted for their meat. Habitat destruction is also a major threat to this species of tapir.

Current population
In Malaysia there are as few as 15,000 left in the wild. Their habitats are rapidly disappearing and experts believe that populations will continue to decline.

Zoo population
There is an EEP for Malayan tapirs. There are 160 living in zoos around the world.

Key to acronyms

IUCN - International Union for Conservation of Nature 

CITES - Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species

EEP - European Endangered Species Programme

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