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Tapirus indicus


Tapirus indicus
Malayan tapir

2008/04/06 09:05:09.211 GMT-4

By Bridget Fahey

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Mammalia
Family: Tapiridae
Genus: Tapirus
Species: Tapirus indicus

Geographic Range

Tapirus indicus is found in southeast Asia from southern Burma to Thailand and on the Malay Peninsula and Sumatra.

Biogeographic Regions:
oriental (native ).


Found in tropical lowland and highland rainforest where there is a permanent supply of water. They tend to shelter in forests and thickets during the daytime, but come out at night to forage on grasslands or near water.

Terrestrial Biomes:
rainforest .

Physical Description

250 to 320 kg
(550 to 704 lbs)

Malayan tapirs have a large stocky body with a prominent proboscis. Adults of this species have a dramatic color pattern, with a black front half of body, white sides, and black hind legs. As dramatic as this color pattern seems to our eyes, it camoflages them well in the shady forest, especially in nights when the moon is out. Eyes are oval and not very mobile. The forefeet have four digits, each of which ends in a hoof. The fourth toe does not touch the ground, so footprints show the imprints of three digits. Hind feet have three digits. This species does not have a mane.

Some key physical features:
endothermic ; bilateral symmetry .


Gestation period
392 days (average)
[External Source: AnAge]

Birth Mass
6500 g (average)
(228.8 oz)
[External Source: AnAge]

Age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
1095 days (average)
[External Source: AnAge]

Age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
1095 days (average)
[External Source: AnAge]

Mating, which occurs in April and May, is characterized by a heated courtship ritual. When sexually excited, tapirs make wheezing and whistling sounds, and attempt to sniff each other's genital regions, often resulting in their going round in circles. They may bite at one anothers ears, feet, and flanks. After a gestation period of at least 390 days, one young is born. At birth, young weigh up to 10 kg, which is the heaviest of any tapir species. The young of this species grows more quickly than those of congenerics. When born, tapirs have a spotted and striped coat rather in contrast to the dramatic black and white pattern seen in the adults. Females have offspring every other year. Sexual maturity is reached at about three years of age, and the lifespan is thought to be about 30 years.

Key reproductive features:
gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual .


Malaysian tapirs are nocturnal and solitary, with the exception of mother-offspring pairs. When they encounter one another in the wild, tapirs are aggressive. They communicate with whistling sounds and scent-marking urine. Tapirs are shy and crash off into the bush when humans are around, but will bite if cornered. They are also good swimmers, runners, and hill climbers.

Key behaviors:
motile .

Food Habits

The Malayan tapir is a vegetarian non-ruminant. The diet consists of grasses, leaves, aquatic plants, and twigs. Salt is well liked by tapirs, which will go out of their way to find it. Foraging is often done on a repeated foraging route, often with their nose to the ground. Often tapirs forage in a zig-zag fashion. The fleshy proboscis is commonly used as a finger to grab almost out-of-reach leaves and grasses and pull them into the mouth. The stomach is simple, and the intestine has a short cecum.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Tapirs have been known to damage food crops.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Malayan tapirs are hunted for food and sport in non-Moslem regions of their distribution.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List: [link]:

US Federal List: [link]:

CITES: [link]:
Appendix I.

Malayan tapirs are classified as vulnerable by the IUCN and endangered by U.S. Endangered Species Act. They are on Appendix 1 of CITES. Habitat destruction and overhunting are the two main factors contributing to their endangered status. Habitat destruction has mainly been a result of agriculture and and increase in cattle grazing.

Other Comments

Natural enemies include humans and tigers.


Bridget Fahey (author), University of Michigan.


Nowak, R.M. Walker's Mammals of the World, 5th Edition. Johns Hopkins University Press.

Grizemek's Encyclopedia of Mammals. McGraw-Hill Publishing Co.



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