Malayan Tapir: Facts You Won't Believe!

Malayan tapir facts for kids are important for conservation ethics.

The Malayan tapir, also known as Malaya tapir, is the largest amongst the four species of tapir. These animals are considered to be old fossils, as they have been inhabiting the planet earth for millions of years. They are related to horses and rhinos. However, in appearance, they resemble elephants and anteaters, largely due to the small prehensile trunk. Malayan tapir skin is of an unusual black and white pattern. They have a herbivorous diet and rely heavily on their sense of smell to navigate their lives in the forest.

Read on to know more about its unique characteristics, habitat, and the tapir specialist group, a conservation project.

If you enjoyed reading about this tapir species, do check out articles on the scimitar oryx and the tamandua.

Malayan Tapir

Fact File

What do they prey on?


What do they eat?

Leaves, twigs, fruits

Average litter size?


How much do they weigh?

550-704 lb (250-320 kg)

How long are they?

6-8 ft (185-240 cm)

How tall are they?

3-3.5 ft (90-105 cm)

What do they look like?

Black and white, heavyset, prehensile trunk

Skin Type

Thick black and white skin

What are their main threats?

Habitat loss, leopards, tigers, anthropogenic activities, hunting

What is their conservation status?


Where you'll find them

Forests, grasslands, wetlands


Malasia, Thailand, Vietnam, Sumatra, Myanmar





Scientific Name

Acrocodia indica





Malayan Tapir Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a Malayan tapir?

The Malayan tapir is the largest amongst the four related tapir species. It can be described as a large, herbivorous mammal.

What class of animal does a Malayan tapir belong to?

Malayan tapirs belong to the class Mammalia of the animal kingdom.

How many Malayan tapirs are there in the world?

Presently, the IUCN Red List records a total of 2500 adult tapirs remaining. Their population is continuously decreasing. Habitat loss is a primary reason behind their dwindling numbers. Activities such as energy production, commercial development, and hunting further contribute to this.

Where does a Malayan tapir live?

Malayan tapirs are found in southeast Asia. Specifically, in the Malaysian peninsular, southern Vietnam, southern Myanmar, Thailand, and Sumatra.

What is a Malayan tapir's habitat?

As these are terrestrial mammals, the Malayan tapir habitat tends to be tropical in nature. They are found primarily in moist forest areas and wetland areas. Although the forest areas are much more suitable to the tapirs than the wetlands and marshes. Across the different locations, they inhabit evergreen forests, primary and secondary forests, and mixed deciduous forests. They do not prefer habitat with harsher climates with seasonal changes. While they don't lodge in higher altitudes, a small population of tapirs has been spotted at ranges 1.2 mi (2000 m) high in the Thai ranges. They hunt for food and may frequent logged forests for obtaining food.

Who do Malayan tapirs live with?

Tapirs are solitary animals but they form small groups while foraging for food during a shortage. If kept captive, their behavior and personality may change.

How long does a Malayan tapir live?

Tapirs may live up to 30 years when kept in captivity and live for 25 years, on average in the wild.

How do they reproduce?

Tapirs form monogamous pairs. The female tapirs give birth to a single calf after a gestation period of 390-403 days. The Malayan tapir calf is dependent on its mother for about six to eight months. It is very easy to distinguish them as they have a different skin pattern - brown skin with white stripes. This allows them to easily blend into the undergrowth and protect against predators. The adult skin appears after four months.

Anthropogenic noises such as industrial noise and common traffic, tend to scare the tapirs. Tapirs are known to be very shy and prefer solitude. Being exposed to such stress affects its reproductive health.

What is their conservation status?

According to the IUCN Red List of threatened species, its status is Endangered. The Malayan tapir population is dwindling because of loss of habitat and hunting practices.

Malayan Tapir Fun Facts

What do Malayan tapirs look like?

Malayan tapirs are related to horses and rhinos.

Malaya tapirs are warm-blooded mammals with huge barrel-shaped bodies. Adults gain a striking height of 6-8 ft with a 3-3.5 ft long shoulder height. They somewhat resemble anteaters and elephants since they too have a prehensile proboscis that emerges of the elongated nose and upper lip. Their thick skin has a sharp contrast of black and white color patterns. This proves to be an excellent camouflage during the nighttime. It would be logical to mention that they are nocturnal, or rather crepuscular, in nature. They have round black eyes and ears with a hint of white color.

How cute are they?

They are quite humble-looking creatures and have a very solemn aura. They are pretty cute with their slightly odd skin pattern and small trunk.

How do they communicate?

These mammals use different channels of communication ranging from olfactory to tactile and even acoustic. Tapirs are known to communicate via whistles or clicks. This may indicate pain, fear, pleasure, or a danger sign. They have a highly developed sense of smell which allows them to perceive pheromones.

How big is a Malayan tapir?

As mentioned earlier, the Malayan tapir is one of the largest amongst its co-species. It is approximately 6 ft in length and is 3-3.5 ft tall. This would mean that it is half the size of a 6 ft human.

How fast can a Malayan tapir run?

They are motile, i.e., they can move from one place to the other easily and tend to run really fast. They even escape their predators by running into thick vegetation. Tapirs can also jump over small hurdles.

How much does a Malayan tapir weigh?

Malayan tapirs are the largest out of the four species of tapir. This mammal can weigh up to 550-704 lb (250-320 kg).

What are their male and female names of the species?

There are no separate names for the males and females of the species. However, other distinctions such as differences in size and age of sexual maturity do exist.

What would you call a baby Malayan tapir?

The Malayan tapir baby is called a calf. The calf is differently colored with brown skin and white stripes on its body. They tend to shed this skin after about four months.

What do they eat?

A Malayan tapir's diet mainly consists of a wide variety of plants. They eat leaves, twigs, and soft shoots. They may also look out for fruits, shrubs, moss, and aquatic plants in wetlands. Tapirs, with their prehensile trunks, can even bend 26-32 ft (8-10 m) tall trees to gain access to its leaves. Keeping in mind their dietary preference, some scientists hypothesize that they may be helpful to disperse seeds around the forests and have an ecological role. This claim is often contested by arguing that they completely chew or digest the seeds.

It is hunted by natural predators such as tigers, leopards, and at times, accidentally by humans. Its camouflaged skin and its ability to swim or rather stay underwater for some time, allows it to escape from these predators.

Are they friendly?

Tapirs are particularly introverted and prefer solitude. They only come together in groups in case of food shortage or during the mating season. Changes in personality may occur if kept in captivity. In fact, its shy nature poses a challenge to observe or study them.

Would they make a good pet?

No, tapirs tend to prefer the wild and cannot be tamed to become domestic pets.

Did you know...

Tapir conservation efforts have struggled to gain publicity even though they are fascinating creatures. However, with much effort on behalf of the scientists, people are starting to notice and know more about it. In fact, April the 27th is now celebrated as World Tapir Day.

Tapirs are capable of swimming can stay underwater for about 90 seconds. They beat the heat by submerging themselves underwater.

They have monocular vision, which means, unlike humans, they do not have depth perception by combining the vision of both eyes.

How to pronounce Malayan tapir?

Malyan tapir can be pronounced as muh·lei·uhn tei·pr or as məˈleɪ ən təˈpɪər. The first word can be divided into three syllables while the second into two.

Why is the Malayan tapir endangered?

Tapirs are Threatened primarily due to habitat loss. With increasing deforestation, they are being exposed to human settlements. A lot of accidents have been reported, which at times even lead to its death. Recently it has been discovered that anthropogenic noises tend to stress these mammals, negatively impacting their reproductive health.

Humans used to hunt these animals but the frequency had decreased with time. The larger threat is the traps that are set for other animals.

Conservation practices have gained traction in the last century. Dedicated projects such as the Tapir Specialist Group are trying to gain a better understanding of their habitat, behavior, and physiology. This knowledge will aid in restoring their population trend. Certain centers keep them in captivity for a short period of time and then release them into the wild after monitored breeding.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other mammals including wild boars or quaggas.

You can even keep yourself busy at home by drawing one of our tapir coloring pages.



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