Malayan Tapir, Tapirus indicus

The Malayan tapir (Tapirus indicus) is the only tapir native to Asia. It is also known as the Asian tapir. This tapir can be called “cipan”, “tenuk” or “badak tampong” in the Malay language. Its range once included Laos, Malaysia, Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Vietnam, and Thailand, but as with all tapirs, the Malayan tapir is endangered. Animals do not usually hunt these tapirs, although some attacks from tigers have been reported. Human actions such as hunting and habitat destruction are the cause for the dwindling numbers of tapirs today. Although the Malayan tapir has a protected status in many of its regions, these measures have proven inadequate in saving them, and so conservations emphasize habitat conservation as a means to revive the tapir population.

Like most tapirs, the Malayan tapir has short fur and white tipped ears. However, it has a distinct “patch” of white fur extending from its shoulders to its rump. It is thought that its markings may be a form of camouflage against predators that wish to attack while the tapir is sleeping, as it looks more like a rock than a tapir. The Malayan tapir is the largest of all four species of tapir, reaching a weight between 550 and 700 pounds and a body length of up to eight feet. As is typical with all tapirs, the nose is long and flexible and the tail is short. It has a stiff crest running from its skull to its rump that is important to muscle structure. Malayan tapirs display odd characteristics for mammals, having lost cartilage and muscle structure to accommodate its long nose.

In 1924, the discovery of an all-black tapir caused a new species of tapir to be called Tapirus indicus brevetianus. Although it is thought that this is a melanistic trait, causing the tapirs to lose all other pigment color, more studies must be done to know if it is a separate species.

The eyesight of the Malayan tapir is poor, but this has created a heightened sense of smell and hearing. With brown, beady eyes often covered by a blue film, called corneal cloudiness, the tapirs must rely on their other senses through their everyday lives. It is thought that the haze is caused by repeated exposure to light. This affects their foraging and defense, as they are usually active at night.

Malayan tapirs are usually solitary animals, and will mark large areas of territory with urine. Often times, tapir territories will overlap. This tapir will use worn tapir paths to forage for food, and are able to eat more than one hundred and fifteen types of plants, although thirty specific plants are preferred. They will stop frequently to eat off the forest floor and to smell other tapirs that have passed through. When scared, these tapirs can run very fast and will use their strong teeth and jaws to fend off attackers. This tapir is known as a crepuscular creature, one who not only feeds at night but also sleeps, and is active during the day and night.

The breeding season of the Malayan tapir is typically between the months of April to June, and female tapirs are able to have one baby every two years. Pregnancy in Malayan tapirs can last over a year, after which one sixteen pound baby is born. These babies will grow more quickly than other baby tapir species, and are weaned between six and eight months of age. Malayan tapirs are born with brownish hair and white markings, a defensive mechanism common to tapirs. Malayan tapirs can live to be over thirty years old, whether in captivity or in the wild.

Image Caption: A Malayan Tapir in London Zoo. Credit: Bluemoose/Wikipedia(CC BY-SA 3.0)