An elusive Malayan icon

A female Malayan tapir and her off-spring at the Leipzig Zoo in Germany.

What animal is black and white, weighs up to 300 kg, lives in the jungles of Asia, and is not a Giant Panda?  It is ‘Tapirus indicus’ – or commonly known as the Malayan Tapir.  This inhabitant of our lowland jungles is the largest of 4 species of tapirs in the world, and the only one found in Asia.

The Malayan tapir’s distinct black and white markings act as an effective camouflage in the dappled light of tropical jungle floors.  The young has brown hair with white stripes and spots – enabling them to hide from predators.  Tapirs are herbivores that usually feed at night on a variety of plants and young shoots.  They prefer habitats that are undisturbed by human activities; but we are delighted to see tapir footprints in parts of Wisdom Park in Hulu Selangor once in a while.

The Malayan tapir feeds on a variety of plants and young shoots at dusk and night.

Throughout its range, the Malayan tapir is greatly threatened by deforestation and habitat destruction.  Its ever shrinking home makes it vulnerable to extinction.  The other threats to its survival are poaching and road accidents.

Today we mark “World Tapir Day” by calling the attention of all people to preserve our natural environment and to reject wanton deforestation for logging or development.  The jungles of Malaysia are home to many unique plant and animal species, and represent some of the most bio-diverse habitats in the world.  We must be proudly protective of their existence and not be negligent in defending our jungles from disappearing altogether.