Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

The Asian tapir is primarily, although not exclusively, nocturnal. Habitually using the same paths, which males mark with urine, this tapir travels long distances during the night in search of food (10) (6). The diet consists of fruits from a variety of trees and shrubs in substantial amounts, as well as aquatic plants, leaves, buds and soft twigs (10) (6). Blurred vision means that tapirs rely on their acute sense of hearing and smell for communication, to locate food and detect predators (4) (7). This tapir is mostly solitary, but occasionally seen in pairs (10) (6). The average range of the male is 13 square km which overlaps the ranges of several females (4). Mating is characterized by a noisy courtship display (5). Females breed every other year and, after a gestation period of 13 months, give birth to a single calf, which remains with its mother for six to eight months (10). Sexual maturity is reached at around three years, and Asian tapirs have been known to live for up to 30 years (5).
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Description

Its unmistakable two-tone pattern distinguishes the Asian tapir, the only Old World tapir, from the other three tapir species of Central and South America (4). The largest of the tapirs, adults possess a stocky black body with a prominent white 'saddle' over the back, which extends down the sides, around the belly and over the rump (4) (5) (6). Although seemingly conspicuous, this 'disruptive colouration' (7) helps break up the body outline in shady and moonlit forests (4) (8). In contrast to adults, infants are born with a reddish-brown coat patterned with white stripes and spots, developing the adult colouration after four to seven months (8). Like other tapirs, the nose and upper lip are extended to form a prominent prehensile proboscis, which is used to grab leaves (8) (9).
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Distribution

Malayan tapirs are restricted to southern Vietnam, southern Cambodia, southern Myanmar (Burma), the Tak Province of Thailand, the Malay Peninsula, and Sumatra south of the Toba Highlands.

Biogeographic Regions: oriental (Native )

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Range Description

Tapirus indicus occurs in southern and central parts of Sumatra (Indonesia), and on the Asian mainland in Peninsular Malaysia, Thailand (along the western border and on the Peninsula south to the Malaysian border, and in Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary in the north), and Myanmar (south of latitude 18°N). Its populations are now highly fragmented within its former range. It was listed as occurring in southern Cambodia and possibly southern Viet Nam by Brooks et al. (1997). It was reported from Hongquan district, eastern Cochin China, Viet Nam, in 1944 (Harper, 1945), and there was an authentic-sounding record from Lao PDR in 1902 (Duckworth et al., 1999). It is presumed to be extinct in all three countries. However, further investigation of these historical records and of other indications from Lao, Viet Nam, Cambodia, northern Thailand and even southern China have found none that has any compelling evidence in its support. In some cases (e.g. the 1902 Lao PDR record; Cheminaud 1939), review of the statement in the context of the same author's wider work means that records sounding, on the face of it, strong need to be dismissed (Duckworth and Hedges 1998, Duckworth et al. 1999, in prep., J. W. Duckworth pers. comm. 2008, G. J. Galbreath pers. comm. 2008). In sum, there is no credible historical-era record from north of the Thai-Malay peninsula, although fossil remains do come from Viet Nam and China and indicate a much wider range under different climatic scenarios. The species' habitat distribution at the northern edge of its Thai range, where the climate develops a more marked dry season, and the tapir occupancy changes from altitudinally wide-ranging to being restricted to the most humid altitudes, strongly supports a climatic limitation (Steinmetz et al. in press), thereby casting further empirical doubt on the 20th century reports from Lao PDR, Viet Nam and Cambodia: these reports showed no association with where, climatically, they "ought" to have been (Annamite wet areas supporting other Sundaic species like Annamite striped rabbit Nesolagus timminsi and crested Argus Rheinardia ocellata, and in fact some came from the driest parts of Indochina, least plausible to support tapirs.
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Historic Range:
Burma, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand

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Range

Fragmented populations survive throughout the historical range of the Asian tapir in Southeast Asia (10), from southern Myanmar, south-west Thailand, Malaysia, and the Malay Peninsula to Sumatra (1). This species was also found in southern parts of Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos (11), but these populations are possibly extinct, with no recent confirmed sightings (6).
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Physical Description

Morphology

Malayan tapirs have large, stocky bodies with a prominent, prehensile proboscis formed by an extended nose and upper lip. Individuals range from 250 to 540 kg, with a length of 1.8 to 2.5 m and a height of 0.9 to 1.1 m. Females tend to be larger than males by about 25 to 100 kg. Adults have a dramatic color pattern, with a black front half of their body, white sides, and black hind legs. This pattern is often referred to as the "saddle" pattern because of its position and shape. White fur rims the ears. The eyes are small, round, and not very mobile. Malayan tapirs have four toes on their forefeet and three toes on their hind feet, each of which ends in a hoof. The fourth toe of each of the forefeet does not touch the ground, so footprints show the imprints of three digits. Newborn Malayan tapirs lack the adult coat pattern and have a coat with whitish stripes and spots which gradually fade by six months of age.

Range mass: 250 to 540 kg.

Average mass: 296 kg.

Range length: 1.8 to 2.5 m.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: female larger

  • Barongi, R. 1993. Husbandry and conservation of tapirs Tapirus spp. International Zoo Yearbook, 32(1): 7-15.
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Ecology

Habitat

Malayan tapirs are forest dwellers that inhabit tropical terrestrial habitats. They occur in rain forests, jungles, primary forests, secondary forests, mature rubber plantations, forest edges, and sometimes open fields or cultivated areas. Tapirs may inhabit previously logged forests for browsing, but require areas of nearby primary forest as refugia and prefer late-stage successional forests to early-stage successional forests. Although Malayan tapirs have been recorded at altitudes up to 2000 m, there is a negative correlation between tapir abundance and elevation, with the highest abundance generally in lower slopes and valley bottoms. Malayan tapirs are in similar abundance both near and far from forest edges and are found close to villages and within 5 km of major cities. Although they are the least aquatic of the extant Tapiridae, Malayan tapirs seek out marshes and rivers for swimming and may wallow in mud holes to inhibit biting insects and cool off in the hot sun. Tapir tracks have been found at tributaries and tapirs are often sighted near headwaters and swamps. In Thailand, these tapirs live in dry dipterocarp and mixed deciduous forests in the rainy season. They move into evergreen forests during the dry season to avoid forest fires and food scarcity. Topography of their habitat generally varies from gentle undulation to steep hills.

Range elevation: 0 to 2000 m.

Habitat Regions: tropical ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: forest ; rainforest

Wetlands: swamp

Other Habitat Features: agricultural

  • Gilmore, M. 2001. Tapir Behavior- An Examination of Activity Patterns, Mother Young Interactions, Spatial Use, and Environmental Effects in Captivity on two Species (Tapirus indicus & Tapirus bairdii). Corvallis, Oregon: Oregon State University.
  • Holden, J., A. Yanuar, D. Martyr. 2003. The Asian Tapir in Kerinci Seblat National Park, Sumatra: evidence collected through photo-trapping. Oryx, 37(1): 34-40.
  • Mohamed, N., C. Traeholt. 2010. A Preliminary Study of Habitat Selection by Malayan Tapir, Tapirus indicus, in Krau Wildlife Reserve, Malaysia. Tapir Conservation: The Newsletter of the IUCN/SSC Tapir Specialist Group, 19(2): 32-35.
  • Novarino, W. 2005. Population Monitoring and Study of Daily Activities of Malayan Tapir (Tapirus indicus). West Sumatra, Indonesia: Andalas University.
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Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
T. indicus is restricted to tropical moist forest areas and occurs in both primary and secondary forest. The more seasonal climate in northern Myanmar, northern (= most of non-peninsula)_Thailand, Lao PDR, Viet Nam and Cambodia and the harsher dry season of the forest (even in evergreen areas, excepting the eastern flanks and adjacent Viet Namese lowlands of the Annamite chain) there is likely to be the main reason this species is not found there. The Malayan tapir is also predominantly found in the lowlands and the lower montane zone in some parts of the range, although it remains common to the highest peaks in its Thai range (Steinmetz et al. in press). Because the lowland forests are disappearing at a faster rate than the montane forests, an accelerated reduction in range and population is suspected (N. van Strien pers. comm.)

Systems
  • Terrestrial
  • Freshwater
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The Asian tapir occupies a variety of forest habitats, including lowland and hill forest, montane cloud forest, alpine scrub and grassy openings, often near a permanent supply of water (10) (11) (12). Both primary and secondary degraded forests are occupied (12) (13).
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Trophic Strategy

Malayan tapirs are frugivores, folivores, and lignivores. They are selective browsers, selecting high quality food when available. The diet consists of leaves (Baccaurea parviflora and Symplocis crassipes), buds, growing twigs, bark, herbs (Curculigo latifolia and Homalomena deltoidea), low growing succulents (Homalomena species and Phyllagathis rotundifolia), shrubs (Lasianthus maingayi and Helicia attenuata), fruits (Crescentia alata and Virola oleifera), club moss (Selanginella willdenonii), grasses, tubers, and aquatic plants. Although they are selective browsers, they feed on more than 122 species of plants and do not concentrate feeding in any particular location. Instead, they move in a zigzag fashion feeding on one plant and then moving on to another, often covering great distances. Malayan tapirs are non-ruminant and hind-gut fermenters with an enlarged cecum and a simple stomach. Some seeds that they ingest are not digested and may be dispersed long distances from their origin. Fruit tends to be a large portion of the diet of the species, especially considering they are hind-gut fermenters which generally cope better with high-fiber, low-quality forage, although the relative importance varies between populations and habitats. Malayan tapirs eat between 4 and 5 percent of their body weight each day, while pregnant, lactating, or young members of the species may require a higher intake. They may also ingest large amounts of a plant containing a strong liquifying agent permitting easy passage of stools, most likely to assist the smooth functioning of its simple digestive system. The proboscis plays an important role in browsing, used to pluck leaves from branches and place them into the animal's mouth. In order to obtain desired branches or leaves, thin saplings (less than 3.8 cm) may be snapped off while thicker saplings or branches (2 to 6.5 cm) may be pushed over or walked down. Additionally, Malayan tapirs crave salt and travel upwards of 5 km to seek out salt licks.

Plant Foods: leaves; roots and tubers; wood, bark, or stems; fruit; bryophytes

Primary Diet: herbivore (Folivore , Frugivore , Lignivore)

  • Clauss, M., T. Wilkins, A. Hartley, J. Jatt. 2009. Diet Composition, Food Intake, Body Condition, and Fecal Consistency in Captive Tapirs (Tapirus spp.) in UK Collections. Zoo Biology, 28(4): 279-291.
  • Williams, K., G. Petrides. 1980. Browse Use, Feeding Behavior, and Management of the Malayan Tapir. The Journal of Wildlife Management, 44(2): 489-494.
  • Wilson, R., S. Wilson. 1973. Diet of captive tapirs Tapirus spp. International Zoo Yearbook, 13(1): 213-217.
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Associations

Fruit constitutes a large portion of the tapir diet and they help disperse the seeds of the fruit they eat. They may be the key dispersers of some communities of plants. Malayan tapirs may transport seeds both by swallowing them and defecating later and by eating fruit and spitting out the seeds. Seed dispersal may be up to a number of kilometers, generating a complex and remote seed shadow, and may disperse large numbers of seeds. Some seeds germinate faster after passing through a tapir gut.

Malayan tapirs host a number of ectoparasites, endoparasites, protozoal enteric parasites, and hemoparasites. These include protozoan blood parasites, such as Babesia, vampire moths (Calyptra eustrigata), ticks, such as Amblyomma testudinarium, mites, such as Sarcoptes tapiri, ciliate protozoans (Ciliophorma), such as g. Balantidium species, flagellated protozoans (Mastigophora), such as g. Giargia species; parasitic unicellular eukaryotes, such as trypanosomes; and parasitic flatworms, such as trematodes.

Ecosystem Impact: disperses seeds

Commensal/Parasitic Species:

  • Ramsay, E., Z. Zainuddin. 1993. "Infectious Diseases of the Rhinoceros and Tapir," in Zoo and Wild Animal Medicine. Philadelphia and London: Saunders.
  • Vroege, C., P. Zwart. 1972. Babesiasis in a Malayan Tapir (Tapirus indicus Desmarest, 1819). Z. Parasitenk, 40: 177-179.
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Tigers (Panthera tigris) and leopards (Panthera pardus) are the major natural predators of Malayan tapirs; however, they are not often preyed upon. The black and white pattern of the adults disrupts the body lines and makes them more difficult to recognize as potential prey. The white saddle does not suggest the form of the entire animal since the rest of the individual remains obscure in the dark. If an individual is attacked, it will run away and find the nearest source of water to escape the chase. They have thickened skin, up to 2.5 cm, on the back of the head and nape, thought to be a defensive measure against fanged animals. If a predator does attach to the neck, the tapir will attempt to bash the assailant against a tree. Humans (Homo sapiens) sometimes hunt tapirs for food.

Known Predators:

Anti-predator Adaptations: cryptic

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

The only vocalizations of Malayan tapirs are whistles, clicks, and hiccup-like noises, often made in response to fear or pain, as an appeasement to conspecifics, as a warning call, or during mating. They have an acute sense of smell and good hearing with large, round ears. They often perform visual or scent cues during mating rituals, sometimes performing flehmen to better detect pheromones. Individuals smell and touch each other when first meeting.

Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

Other Communication Modes: pheromones

Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

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Life Expectancy

Average lifespan of Malayan tapirs is approximately 30 years. They have been recorded living up to 36.5 years in captivity.

Range lifespan

Status: wild:
30 (high) years.

Range lifespan

Status: captivity:
36.5 (high) years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
25 years.

Average lifespan

Status: captivity:
30 years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
30.0 years.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 36.5 years (captivity) Observations: One captive specimen lived for 36.5 years (Richard Weigl 2005).
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Reproduction

Malayan tapirs are monogamous during mating season and generally breed during the months of May and June. Initial introduction of mates is usually through scent signals and also sometimes visual cues. Sometimes mates will copulate in shallow water. Mates may spend a great deal of time before copulation participating in courtship rituals, such as periods of chasing, sexual investigation, or circling and sniffing of the genitalia. In addition, individuals may initiate biting of the flanks and often use vocalizations such as wheezing or whistling noises. Spraying of urine and flehmen (curling of the upper lip which facilitates the transfer of pheromones) may also occur prior to intromission.

Mating System: monogamous

Malayan tapirs breed during the months of May and June, producing a single offspring every other year on average, although twins have been reported. The gestation period of the female lasts between 390 and 410 days (13 to 13.5 months). Weaning of offspring usually takes place between 6 and 8 months after birth. Independence occurs when the mother gives birth to a new offspring, sometimes even later. Generally, individuals become sexually mature around the age of 30 months, although this may be earlier depending on nutrition and compatibility of the breeding pair (in captivity). Males tend to become sexually mature slightly later than females, generally by a few months. Copulation will usually take place at least once during the female's 28-32 day estrous cycle following sexual maturation. Interbirth intervals are rarely less than 18 months although cows usually return to a cyclic estrous cycle during lactation.

Breeding interval: Malayan tapirs breed every two years.

Breeding season: Malayan tapirs breed from May to June.

Average number of offspring: 1.

Range gestation period: 390 to 410 days.

Range weaning age: 6 to 8 months.

Average time to independence: 1.6 years.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 2.8 years.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 3 years.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; viviparous

Average birth mass: 6500 g.

Average number of offspring: 1.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)

Sex: male:
1095 days.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)

Sex: female:
1095 days.

A healthy calf can usually stand within one or two hours of birth and first nursing occurs within two to five hours, proceeding to feedings two to three times a day. Calves eat solid food as early as two weeks old and are capable of swimming at three weeks old. All care and protection is done by the female parent until independence, although care decreases dramatically after about 3 months. Calves tend to be followers, not hiders. Often mothers and calves will rest, investigate, and swim together. Most adult males are tolerant of newborns and may even sleep with them, although violence may arise when males attempt to copulate with females too soon after birth of the calf. Newborns bear a vividly spotted and striped pattern that contrasts with the black and white adult pattern. This pattern gradually fades by six months. Malayan tapir calves grow rapidly and are weaned by 6 to 8 months after birth. They normally stay with their mother until the birth of a new offspring, sometimes longer.

Parental Investment: precocial ; female parental care ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-independence (Protecting: Female)

  • Barongi, R. 1993. Husbandry and conservation of tapirs Tapirus spp. International Zoo Yearbook, 32(1): 7-15.
  • Gilmore, M. 2001. Tapir Behavior- An Examination of Activity Patterns, Mother Young Interactions, Spatial Use, and Environmental Effects in Captivity on two Species (Tapirus indicus & Tapirus bairdii). Corvallis, Oregon: Oregon State University.
  • Kusuda, S., K. Ishihara, M. Ikoma, O. Doi, K. Uetake, T. Tanaka. 2008. Male and female behaviors related with estrus and copulation in the captive Malayan tapir, Tapirus indicus. Japanese Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine, 13: 45-50.
  • Lilia, K., Y. Rosnina, H. Abd Wahid, Z. Zahari, M. Abraham. 2010. Gross Anatomy and Ultrasonographic Images of the Reproductive System of the Malayan Tapir (Tapirus indicus). Anatomia Histologia Embryologia, 39(6): 569-575.
  • Read, B. 1986. Breeding and management of the Malayan tapir, Tapirus indicus, at St. Louis Zoo. International Zoo Yearbook, 24/25: 294-297.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Tapirus indicus

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

Malayan tapirs are endangered on both the IUCN Red List and the United States Endangered Species Act list and an Appendix I status in the CITES appendices. The most serious threat to Malayan tapir survival is that of forest conversion for agriculture and human settlement. However, agricultural development has slowed as a result of industrial and manufacturing development in southeast Asia. Hunting of Malayan tapirs has all but ceased, except for the accidental shooting or trapping of individuals. Some aborigines occasionally consume the meat and some exporting and smuggling occurs in Thailand. In Malaysia, Malayan tapirs have been given total protection under the Wild Animals and Birds Ordinance No. 2 of 1955, and they have been protected in Indonesia since 1931. Also, the number of Malayan tapirs in captivity has increased steadily since their status as endangered. The Malayan tapir trade has been monitored in addition to the establishment of numerous wildlife management groups throughout their geographic range. The Tapir Specialist Group is a subgroup of the IUCN and is dedicated to the protection and conservation of Malayan tapirs.

US Federal List: endangered

CITES: appendix i

State of Michigan List: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: endangered

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IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
EN
Endangered

Red List Criteria
A2cd

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2008

Assessor/s
Lynam, A., Traeholt, C., Martyr, D., Holden, J., Kawanishi, K., van Strien, N.J. & Novarino, W.

Reviewer/s
Shoemaker, A. & Medici, P. (Tapir Specialist Red List Authority)

Contributor/s

Justification
This species is listed as Endangered due to an ongoing decline estimated from loss of available habitat, fragmentation of remaining habitat and increasingly hunting pressure. Population declines are estimated to be greater than 50% in the past 3 generation (36 years) driven primarily by large scale conversion of lowland tapir habitat to palm oil plantations and other human dominated land-use. The rate of reduction in population is inferred to be proportional to the reduction of the tropical rainforest area in southeast Asia over the same period - but may be more due to indirect threats. Remaining populations are isolated in existing protected areas and forest fragments, which are discontinuous and offer little ability for genetic exchange for these forest dependant species. This situation is expected to continue at a slightly diminishing rate in the future as non-protected areas, which are available as logging concessions, become less available. Because hunting seems to be increasing for tapir throughout the range - this could be cause for concern in the future as already reduced and isolated subpopulations would be at great risk for extirpation.

History
  • 2003
    Vulnerable
  • 2003
    Vulnerable
    (IUCN 2003)
  • 2002
    Endangered
  • 1996
    Vulnerable
  • 1994
    Endangered
    (Groombridge 1994)
  • 1990
    Endangered
    (IUCN 1990)
  • 1988
    Endangered
    (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1988)
  • 1986
    Endangered
    (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1986)
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Current Listing Status Summary

Status: Endangered
Date Listed: 06/14/1976
Lead Region: Foreign (Region 10) 
Where Listed: Entire


Population detail:

Population location: Entire
Listing status: E

For most current information and documents related to the conservation status and management of Tapirus indicus , see its USFWS Species Profile

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Status

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1), and listed on Appendix I of CITES (3).
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Population

Population
Tapirus indicus occurs in two disjunct and isolated populations - one occurring on mainland Southeast Asia and the other occupying on the island of Sumatra. The species is more widespread and common on the mainland, and it is declining rapidly in Sumatra due to extensive loss of habitat, accidental and deliberate trapping for meat and removal of animals for zoos in Indonesia.

In Malaysia there are approximately 1,500-2,000 individuals (C. Traeholt pers. comm.). Further research efforts are needed to determine the total population size. In Thailand it is one of the least-affected large mammals by recent heavy levels of hunting that have caused severe cross-country declines in many large mammal species (Steinmetz et al. in press).

The situation in Thailand is similar, although with much less habitat available, and the Thai populations are is likely to be quite fragile since it is severely fragmented, and most subpopulations are unlikely to reach more than 50-100 individuals at the most. In many places there are only 10-15 individuals left with no chance of linking up to other protected areas and suitable habitats.

Population Trend
Decreasing
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Threats

Major Threats
Tapirus indicus is threatened throughout most of its range. The primary threats to the species are large scale deforestation and increasingly, hunting. Tapir population have declined by well over 50% in Thailand and Malaysia, whereas it is suspected to be slightly less than 50% in Sumatra. The main reason for declines in the past is habitat conversion, with large tracts land being converted into palm oil plantations. However, increasingly as other large 'prey" species decline in the area hunters are beginning to look towards tapir as a food source.

Destruction of habitat is the main threat to the species: in central Sumatra much of the remaining habitat is outside of any protected area and uncontrolled illegal logging continues; in Thailand, almost all remaining intact forest now lies within protected areas, with mostly degraded lands outside; in contrast, Myanmar's protected areas make up 3.2% of land area (data provided by Myanmar Forest Department) and most tapir habitat lies outside these protected areas. In Malaysia forest loss is extremely severe, especially for expanding oil palm plantations.

Tapirus indicus are shy animals and appear to be highly sensitive to forest fragmentation. In Halabala Wildlife Sanctuary on the Thai-Malaysia border, Kaewsirisuk (2001) found that the species does not venture within a few hundred meters of forest-plantation edges. At Khao Sok National Park, tapirs are interior forest species that avoid forest edges (Lynam 1996). Kawanishi (2002), however, found in Taman Negara, the largest national park in Malaysia, that although the human traffic level was heavier in area closer to the park boundary, tapirs showed no edge effects. While forest loss continues in Thailand, forests in protected areas remain relatively stable in size and composition to other countries because of a ban on commercial logging that has been in place since 1989. For this reason, while tapirs may indeed be threatened in general by forest loss, populations in Thailand and Malaysia are probably more stable.

Large-scale habitat destruction has continued in Sumatra, historically the species' main stronghold, and most remaining habitat in central Sumatra is outside protected areas. In Sumatra, populations have declined by slightly less than 50% simply because the onslaught of habitat only started to be serious in the late 1980s. However, the rate of decline is continuing to escalate in this region. In fact Sumatra has only 60% of the forest cover that it had 15 years ago, so things are developing fast there and future declines of the species are likely well over 50% in the next 30 years. Given the uncontrolled illegal logging situation in Sumatra, they are becoming increasingly threatened island-wide. Localized hunting also occurs and is suspected elsewhere in its distribution range. Unless serious efforts to stem illegal logging and forest encroachment are made, all Sumatran forests outside conservation areas will be lost over the next few decades.

In Malaysia the current forestry trend seems to be stabilized at approx. 43% remaining forest cover (57% lost), of which at least half can be considered tapir habitat. In Thailand, 40% of the remaining forest is outside protected areas and only 5% of Myanmar's land area is protected forest (Lynam pers. comm.).

The species has uncertain status and future in Myanmar due to security issues and forest clearance for rubber and oil palm plantations. However, two new protected areas have been designated in the Tenasserims: Taninthayi National Park and Lenya River Wildlife Sanctuary. If these areas can be protected, they will preserve valuable tapir habitat in the future.

In the past, several Indonesian zoos, especially Pekanbaru, traded in live tapirs for sale to other Indonesian zoos or private collections, or for sale as meat in local markets. Fifty tapirs are reported passing through the Pekanbaru Zoo since 1993. Some of these animals are suspected of having originated from protected areas. Elsewhere, extraction may not be very high but it is uncertain how many individuals are actually hunted every year. Hunting is specifically known to be comparatively (by comparison with other mammals of similar size) very low in Thailand and at least parts of Sumatra (Holden et al. 2003, Stienmetz et al. in press)

There are indications that live tapirs have been traded through several Indonesian zoos, with some destined for private collections or for sale as meat in local markets to the non-Muslim community. Some of these animals are suspected to have originated from protected areas.

Hunting has been a minor threat to Tapirus indicus in the past, but is has been increasingly a cause of concern as more and more hunting of the species is discovered. Some localized hunting has been reported in Sumatra, however, and historically tapirs are not hunted for subsistence or commercial trade in Thailand or Myanmar, since their flesh is considered distasteful. Some hill tribes believe that killing a tapir brings bad luck, so they are not hunted.
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Widely abundant in Southern Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia in the early 1930s, Asian tapir populations have since rapidly declined and now survive only as isolated populations in remote or protected areas. Habitat destruction poses the predominant threat, as a result of land being cleared for human settlement and agriculture, and rivers being dammed and land flooded for hydroelectric development (11). In Sumatra, uncontrolled illegal logging still occurs. The tapir population is strongest in Malaysia, where deforestation has greatly declined (1). The Asian tapir is hunted for food and sport (5). Although the flesh of tapirs was previously haram (forbidden) in Muslim areas due to the species' resemblance to pigs (9), very recent reports indicate that Muslims no longer equate the two and thus hunt them for subsistence food (6). In Thailand and Myanmar the meat is considered distasteful and some tribes believe killing a tapir brings bad luck (1). However, a flourishing Asian zoo trade has put a tempting price on the tapir's head, with a single animal fetching up to 6,000 US dollars (9). Tapirs also occasionally get caught in steel wire snares which are set for wild pigs (2). The low reproductive rate and fragmented distribution of this species mean that populations have a low rebound potential, and this makes it particularly vulnerable to hunting (14).
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
The species is legally protected in all range states and the habitat of large parts of the range is protected, including several National Parks in Thailand, Myanmar, Peninsula Malaysia and Sumatra. The impact of habitat reduction/destruction on the tapir is not fully understood and needs further investigation. It is listed on CITES Appendix I.

Thailand supports one of the most comprehensive systems of protected areas in Southeast Asia. Over 200 National Parks, Marine National Parks, Wildlife Sanctuaries and Non-hunting areas cover 17% of land area (Prayurasiddhi et al. 1999). Since most existing Tapirus indicus habitat is already protected, the future for conservation of the species in Thailand is quite positive. In contrast, Myanmar?s protected areas make up 5% of land area (Lynam 2003) and most tapir habitat lies outside these protected areas. In Myanmar, Malayan tapirs are entirely restricted to rainforests in the Tenasserim Ranges along the Thai-Myanmar border (Yin, 1993). The tenure of these lands on the Myanmar side of the border is disputed and due to civil unrest, has been inaccessible for wildlife survey until now. A team of Myanmar Forest Department staff working the Tenasserim border during 2001 detected tapirs from camera-traps, track and scat at two sites: the Minmoletka Taung area and the Hitaung Pru Reserve Forest (Lynam 2003).

In Thailand, Tapirus indicus is recorded from forest areas in the west and south of the country (Lekagul and McNeely 1988), including transboundary forest areas in border areas, and large isolated forest remnants. The transboundary forests represent the most extensive, contiguous habitats for large mammals left in the country (Prayurasiddhi et al. 1999). They include the Western Forest Complex (Thai-Myanmar border), which includes 12 protected areas, and covers over 18,730 sq km including both dry and wet forests, and the Kaeng Krachan/Chumpol complex which covers 4,373 sq km, mostly wet evergreen forest on the Thai-Myanmar border. The Balahala Forest is an expanse of 1,850 sq km of tropical rainforest on the Thai-Malaysia border. All areas are contiguous with larger forest areas on opposite sides of the country border. Recent survey efforts (Lynam 1999; Lynam 2000; WCS 2001; Kaewsirisuk 2001; A. Pattanavibool pers. comm.) suggest that tapirs are present though uncommon in each of these transboundary forest areas.
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Conservation

Protective game laws exist in Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia and Indonesia, with varying success (11). In Malaysia the Asian tapir has been given total protection since 1955, under the Wild Animals and Birds Ordinance, and law enforcement has generally been effective. The use of steel wire snares has been banned here, with stiff penalties if caught. However, ongoing monitoring of the illegal tapir trade across the range of this species is crucial (2). Asian tapirs can be found in a number of protected areas, including the Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary and the Khao Sok National Park in Thailand, 12 protected areas in the Western Forest Complex along the Thai-Myanmar border (1), and the Way Kambas National Park in Sumatra, which contains around 200 individuals (11). However, much of the suitable habitat that remains in Sumatra does not lie within protected areas and a large proportion of the tapir population occurs outside of reserves. Conservation efforts should not, therefore, be restricted to national parks, but should endeavour to involve the cooperation of local people across the species' range (11).
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

In Southwest Sumatra, Malayan tapirs are considered a problem species because they tend to strip the bark from rubber trees. In West Sumatra, they have been reported eating watermelon and cucumber crops. However, these are the only occurrences of such actions and this remains the only possible negative economic importance. Otherwise, the species has no adverse effects on humans.

Negative Impacts: crop pest

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Malayan tapirs has been hunted for meat by aborigines, although that is rare now. Tapirs are seed dispersers and benefit native plant communities.

Positive Impacts: food

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Wikipedia

Malayan tapir

The Malayan tapir (Tapirus indicus), also called the Asian tapir, is the largest of the five species of tapir and the only one native to Asia.[2] The scientific name refers to the East Indies, the species' natural habitat. In the Malay language, the tapir is commonly referred to as cipan, tenuk or badak tampung.[3]

General appearance and characteristics[edit]

The animal is easily identified by its markings, most notably the light-colored patch that extends from its shoulders to its rear end. The rest of its hair is black, except for the tips of its ears, which, as with other tapirs, are rimmed with white. This pattern is for camouflage; the disrupted coloration makes it more difficult to recognize it as a tapir, and other animals may mistake it for a large rock rather than prey when it is lying down to sleep.[4]

Skeleton
Photo of a Malayan Tapir Skull, on display at the Museum of Osteology

Malayan tapirs grow to between 1.8 and 2.4 m (5 ft 11 in and 7 ft 10 in) in length, not counting a stubby tail of only 5 to 10 cm (2.0 to 3.9 in) in length, and stand 90 to 107 cm (2 ft 11 in to 3 ft 6 in) tall. They typically weigh between 250 and 320 kg (550 and 710 lb), although some adults can weigh up to 540 kg (1,190 lb).[5] The females are usually larger than the males. Like the other types of tapir, they have small, stubby tails and long, flexible proboscises. They have four toes on each front foot and three toes on each back foot. The Malayan tapir has rather poor eyesight, but excellent hearing and sense of smell.

They have a large sagittal crest, a bone running along the middle of the skull that is necessary for muscle attachment. They also have unusually positioned orbits, an unusually shaped cranium with the frontal bones elevated, and a retracted nasal incision. All of these modifications to the normal mammal skull are, of course, to make room for the proboscis. This proboscis caused a retraction of bones and cartilage in the face during the evolution of the tapir, and even caused the loss of some cartilages, facial muscles, and the bony wall of the nasal chamber.

Visual[edit]

Malayan tapirs have very poor eyesight, making them rely greatly on their excellent sense of smell and hearing to go about in their everyday lives. They have small, beady eyes with brown irises on either side of their faces. Their eyes are often covered in a blue haze, which is corneal cloudiness thought to be caused by repetitive exposure to light. Corneal cloudiness is when the cornea starts to lose its transparency. The cornea is necessary for the transmitting and focusing of outside light as it enters the eye, and cloudiness can cause vision loss. This causes the Malayan tapir to have very inadequate vision, both on land and in water, where they spend the majority of their time. Also, as these tapirs are most active at night and since they have poor eyesight, it is harder for them to search for food and avoid predators in the dark.[6] [7]

Brevetianus variation[edit]

A small number of melanistic (all-black) Malayan tapirs have been observed. In 1924, an all-black tapir was sent to Rotterdam Zoo and was classified as a subspecies called Tapirus indicus brevetianus after its discoverer, Captain K. Brevet.[8] In 2000, two melanistic tapirs were observed during a study of tigers in the Jerangau Forest Reserve in Malaysia.[9] The cause of this variation may be a genetic abnormality similar to that of black panthers that appear in populations of spotted jaguars. However, unless and until more T. i. brevetianus individuals can be studied, the precise explanation for the trait will remain unknown.

Lifecycle[edit]

A juvenile tapir, still with dappled markings, asleep

The gestation period of the Malayan tapir is about 390–395 days, after which a single offspring, weighing around 15 pounds (6.8 kg), is born. Malayan tapirs are the largest of the five tapir species at birth and grow more quickly than their congeners.[10] Young tapirs of all species have brown hair with white stripes and spots, a pattern that enables them to hide effectively in the dappled light of the forest. This baby coat fades into adult coloration between four and seven months after birth. Weaning occurs between six and eight months of age, at which time the babies are nearly full-grown, and the animals reach sexual maturity around age three. Breeding typically occurs in April, May or June, and females generally produce one calf every two years. Malayan tapirs can live up to 30 years, both in the wild and in captivity.

Behavior[edit]

Malayan tapirs are primarily solitary creatures, marking out large tracts of land as their territory, though these areas usually overlap with those of other individuals. Tapirs mark out their territories by spraying urine on plants, and they often follow distinct paths, which they have bulldozed through the undergrowth.

Exclusively herbivorous, the animal forages for the tender shoots and leaves of more than 115 species of plants (around 30 are particularly preferred), moving slowly through the forest and pausing often to eat and note the scents left behind by other tapirs in the area.[3] However, when threatened or frightened, the tapir can run quickly, despite its considerable bulk, and can also defend itself with its strong jaws and sharp teeth. Malayan tapirs communicate with high-pitched squeaks and whistles. They usually prefer to live near water and often bathe and swim, and they are also able to climb steep slopes. Tapirs are mainly active at night, though they are not exclusively nocturnal. They tend to eat soon after sunset or before sunrise, and they will often nap in the middle of the night. This behavior characterizes them as crepuscular animals.

Habitat, predation, and vulnerability[edit]

Map of Malayan tapir distribution in the wild, data circa 2003

The Malayan tapir was once found throughout the tropical lowland rainforests of Southeast Asia, including Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, and Vietnam. However, its numbers have decreased in recent years, and today, like all tapirs, it is in danger of extinction.[1] Because of their size, tapirs have few natural predators, and even reports of killings by tigers are scarce.[11] The main threat to the Malayan tapirs is human activity, including deforestation for agricultural purposes, flooding caused by the damming of rivers for hydroelectric projects, and illegal trade.[12] In Thailand, for instance, capture and sale of a young tapir may be worth US$5500.00.[11] In areas such as Sumatra, where the population is predominantly Muslim, tapirs are seldom hunted for food, as their physical similarity to pigs has made tapir meat a taboo, but in some regions they are hunted for sport or shot accidentally when mistaken for other animals.[13] Protected status in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand, which seeks to curb deliberate killing of tapirs but does not address the issue of habitat loss, has had limited effect in reviving or maintaining the population.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Lynam, A., Traeholt, C., Martyr, D., Holden, J., Kawanishi, K., van Strien, N.J. & Novarino, W. (2008). Tapirus indicus. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 10 April 2009. Database entry includes justification for why this species is vulnerable
  2. ^ Grubb, P. (2005). "Order Perissodactyla". In Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 633. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494. 
  3. ^ a b bin Momin Khan, Mohd Khan. "Status and Action Plan of the Malayan Tapir (Tapirus indicus)" Tapirs: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan published by IUCN Tapir Specialist Group, 1997, page 1
  4. ^ Woodland Park Zoo Animal Fact Sheet: Malayan Tapir (Tapirus indicus)
  5. ^ Wilson & Burnie, Animal: The Definitive Visual Guide to the World's Wildlife. DK ADULT (2001), ISBN 978-0-7894-7764-4
  6. ^ "Cambridge Journals Online - Abstract". Journals.cambridge.org. 2001-02-27. Retrieved 2011-01-15. 
  7. ^ "Tapirus terrestris (lowland tapir)". Digimorph. 2002-02-08. Retrieved 2011-01-15. 
  8. ^ Shuker, Dr. Karl P. N. Mysteries of Planet Earth, pages 11-12
  9. ^ Mohd, Azlan J. "Recent Observations of Melanistic Tapirs in Peninsular Malaysia". Tapir Conservation: The Newsletter of the IUCN/SSC Tapir Specialist Group, June 2002, Volume 11, Number 1, pages 27-28
  10. ^ Fahey, B. 1999. "Tapirus indicus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Retrieved June 16, 2006.
  11. ^ a b bin Momin Khan, Mohd Khan. "Status and Action Plan of the Malayan Tapir (Tapirus indicus)" Tapirs: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan published by IUCN Tapir Specialist Group, 1997, page 2
  12. ^ Fact sheet on Malayan Tapir - Tapirus indicus, UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre, in association with the World Wildlife Foundation
  13. ^ Simon, Tamar. “The Tapir: A Big Unknown” article from Discovery Channel Canadian website, July 22, 1999.
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