Rare sighting of endangered Malayan tapir at Changi

A tapir was seen near the coast at Changi at about 4.30am on June 24, 2016.
A tapir was seen near the coast at Changi at about 4.30am on June 24, 2016.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO READER

SINGAPORE - A Malayan tapir was spotted in Changi on Friday (June 24) morning in a rare sighting of the endangered animal.

The herbivore is known for having a distinctive white patch round its middle, and a black head, shoulders and hind quarters .

In a blurry photo taken by a Lianhe Zaobao reader at about 4.30am on Friday, the tapir is seen trotting alongside a metal fence.

Ms Anbarasi Boopal, deputy chief executive of Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres), said that it received a call about the sighting but the animal was "not in view" by then.

"We are keeping this case in view and hope that the tapir managed to swim to safety," she told The Straits Times.

As tapirs are not found in Singapore, it is possible that it swam over from southern Johor, said Mr Marcus Chua, Museum Officer for Mammal Biodiversity at the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum.

The last sighting of a tapir in Singapore was on Pulau Ubin in 1986.

"It could be looking for new territory or pushed out of habitat because of development," said Mr Chua.

The tapir sighting is "extremely rare for Singapore", he added.

The nocturnal animal is dependent on the rainforest habitat. It feeds mostly on leaves, which it can grab using its prehensile snout.

It can be found in Sumatra, Peninsular Malaysia, and Southern Thailand, and is globally endangered, mainly due to habitat loss.

There are only about 1,500 to 2,000 in Malaysia according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

While the tapir looks like a wild boar with a longer snout, it is more closely related to horses and rhinos.