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Malayan Tapir

At the Zoo: Malayan Tapir

Animal Story

The Malayan tapir is sometimes mistaken for an anteater, or even an aardvark, because of its long nose, but the tapir is its own species. The Malayan tapir is the only tapir from Asia. All 3 of its tapir cousins live in South America. The tapir’s nose and upper lip are very useful. They are used to scoop food toward the tapir’s mouth and can also be used as a snorkel when the tapir is walking or swimming in a river in search of food!

Our tapir family includes an adult male, “Albert,” an adult female, “Ubi,” and their baby boy, “Tembikai,” who was born in January 2015. “Albert” is very playful and enjoys splashing in the water. “Ubi” likes to take it easy, while watching over their baby. Tapirs have an excellent sense of smell. Our tapirs like to explore the smells of perfume, spices, and, especially, smeared bananas.

The unique black and white color pattern of Malayan tapirs is thought to provide them with camouflage, because they are most active at night, and the color scheme helps to break up their outline so they blend in with the bright moonlight and dark forest. Baby tapirs are born with distinct markings of stripes and spots, resembling watermelon! “Tembikai” means “melon.” This pattern helps the babies hide in the grasses when they are young and vulnerable. Within a few months though, the stripes and spots disappear. “Tembikai” now has the same black and white pattern as his parents.

About: Malayan Tapir

Natural Habitat

Dense rainforests.


Burma and Thailand, south to the Malay peninsula and Sumatra.


Weight: 550-750 pounds
Length: 7-8 feet
Height: 3-4 feet


30 years.


13 months.

Diet Details

Grasses, aquatic vegetation, leaves, buds, soft twigs, and fruits of low shrubs.

Fun Facts: Malayan Tapir

  • Despite their pig-like appearance and small size, tapirs are more closely related to the horse and rhinoceros.
  • The world's biggest tapir is found in Southeast Asia. The black-and-white Malayan tapir can grow to 800 pounds.
  • Tapirs are fantastic swimmers.
  • A group of tapirs is called a “candle.”
  • Tapirs have 4 toes on their front feet and only 3 toes on their back feet.

Conservation: Malayan Tapir

The primary threat to tapirs is habitat loss and fragmentation. Palm oil plantations reduce habitat size and connectivity, making these already solitary animals less able to move between forest habitats, breed, and increase their population. However, with your help, we can reverse this trend!

The Zoo is committed to excellence in education, conservation, and research and our mission is to "connect people with the living earth." The Zoo is home to many endangered, threatened, and vulnerable wildlife species, including Malayan tapirs, 1 of the nearly 100 AZA Species Survival Plan (SSP) programs at the Zoo that promotes cooperative breeding and conservation programs to help ensure species survival.

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How You Can Help

Adopt an Animal!

You can help support expert animal care at the Zoo as well as local and global conservation efforts by purchasing a symbolic animal adoption package.

Join Us!

When you become a member of Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo you are supporting conservation year-round.

Be a Conservation Leader!

Each of us can help protect the environment, wildlife, and habitats through choices we make in our daily lives. Even small changes can make big positive impacts on the world around us.

  • Purchase products that use sustainable palm oil – Palm oil is frequently harvested from the rainforests of Indonesia, which destroys or fragments tapir habitat. Download the app from the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo to learn about companies that use sustainable palm oil to change this practice.
  • Teach friends – Spread the word about palm oil and show others how to look at a product’s ingredients before buying it.
  • Support reforestation efforts in your local community and around the world!

Related Events

  • Tampa Bay City Pass
  • Association of Zoos and Aquariums
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Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo is operated by the Lowry Park Zoological Society, an independent 501(c)(3) charitable organization committed to excellence in education, conservation and research. The Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), and is featured among the “Top 25 Zoos in the U.S” by TripAdvisor (2015) and “10 Best Zoos in the U.S.” by Trekaroo (2015). The Zoo is located at 1101 W. Sligh Avenue in Tampa, one mile west of I-275 (exit 48) and is open seven days a week, from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. 

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