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Zoo location: 
Scientific Name: 
Tapirus indicus
Species class: 
Population Trend: 
Quick Facts

Life Span: 25-30 years

Size: 1.8-2.5m

Weight: 250-540kgs

Fun Facts

Thery can run fast in short bursts when moving through the forests or escaping predators.

All species of tapir have extremely unique feet, with four toes on the front feet and three on the hind feet. They also have large, protruding rumps, stubby tails, oval ears and long trunk-like noses, called proboscis. This structure is extremely flexible and can move in all directions. This prehensile appendage allows them to reach foliage that would otherwise be out of their reach. 

Tapirs are quiet, secretive animals.

Prehistoric Species: Despite being one of the lesser known animals at the Zoo, tapirs have roamed the world for centuries. Prehistoric remains of the species have been found dating back to the super continent ‘Gondwana’.  Their closest relatives are rhinos and horses.

Proboscis: Tapirs have a short trunk, or proboscis, which provides them with an excellent sense of smell and the ability to pull leaves into their mouths. Malayan Tapirs have poor eyesight, which is more than made up for with their such excellent sense of hearing and smell.

Excellent Swimmers: They are excellent swimmers and are rarely found far from water, often immersed in it and sometimes with only the tip of their proboscis appearing at the surface to breathe and sniff the air. Tapirs can submerge themselves to escape predator – holding their breath for up to several minutes.

Colouration and Camouflage: Although their body hair is sparse it is strikingly coloured, having a black body with a white ‘saddle’ over their back and rump. This colour pattern creates effective ‘disruptive camouflage’ because it breaks up the tapir’s outline in the dim light of their jungle habitat.

The markings of the calf are quite different to that of the adult, being black with white stripes and flecks.

Tapirs are excellent climbers!

Hunting: While some local hill tribes believe killing a tapir is bad luck and therefore do not hunt them, others hunt them for their thick skin, as well as for food and sport.

Whistle: Tapirs emit a high pitched whistle, and Berani will even whistle back to his keepers.              

Like all tapirs, the Malayan Tapir is most closely related to the horse and the rhinoceros. It is the largest of the four tapir species and can be identified by its distinctive markings. Malayan Tapirs have distinctive black heads and legs, with a white saddle running between the shoulders and the rump. The tips of the tapir’s ears are also rimmed in white. Their colour pattern breaks up their outline in the shady forest.  They look like a rock, fooling their predators.

At Taronga:

At Taronga Zoo we have 1 Malayan Tapir: a male named Berani (DOB 07/1995).

Berani is referred to as the ‘handsome one’ by his keepers, who admire his striking black and white marking and gentle nature.

Keepers Justine says:   “I‘m probably biased, but Berani is one of the loveliest animals at Taronga. He’s rarely in a bad mood, and has such a gentle nature. He’s a complete sook and loves being scratched on his belly with a rake or brush.”

“When I am in the night den alongside him, all you need to do is show him the brush and whisper to him and he rolls over. It’s an impressive sight to see a 330 kilogram animal roll over for a belly rub!”  

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