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Malayan Tapir

Scientific Name: Tapirus indicus


The Malayan tapir is the largest of four tapir species and can weigh upwards of 700 pounds. At first glance, the animal may be mistaken for a pig or an anteater because of its large, rounded body and trunk-like snout; however, it is more closely related to a horse and rhinoceros.


Tapirs communicate with high-pitched whistles that resemble the sound of squeaky car brakes. They try to ward off predators by snorting and stomping their feet. They can also torpedo through the dense forest at remarkable speeds. Although tapirs are commonly found in wooded areas, those with access to rivers are likely to be in the water feeding on vegetation, hiding from predators or just cooling off.


Tapirs are herbivores and eat primarily grasses, aquatic plants, buds, leaves and soft twigs. Their diet at the Zoo normally consists of Bermuda hay, alfalfa, herbivore pellets, leafy greens, carrots, apples and a tapir-favorite—bananas.


After a 13-month gestation period, the female tapir gives birth to a single calf. The newborn appears significantly different from an adult. Its reddish-brown coat is dappled with white spots and stripes, similar in color to a white-tailed deer fawn but shaped like a watermelon. After a few months, the young tapir begins to lose these markings, and by six months of age it begins to take on the coloration of an adult. Tapirs mature by age 4.


Native to rainforests and lower montane forests of Thailand, Burma, Malaysia and Indonesia, this primitive mammal has remained relatively unchanged for millions of years.


The Malayan tapir is endangered across all of its native range. Heavily hunted for food and its hide, the tapir’s native habitat is also threatened as humans continue to develop lands for farming, logging and raising cattle.