Baby male Malayan tapir is new star of the Night Safari

Bintang trying solid food for the first time. Like all other Malayan tapir calves at birth, Bintang sports a distinctive black coat with white spots and stripes. Over the first six months, the pattern will gradually transform into the unique black an
Bintang trying solid food for the first time. Like all other Malayan tapir calves at birth, Bintang sports a distinctive black coat with white spots and stripes. Over the first six months, the pattern will gradually transform into the unique black and white marking of adult tapirs.PHOTOS: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE

The Night Safari has welcomed the latest addition to its Malayan tapir family - its first male calf in close to a decade.

The birth of Bintang, or "star" in Malay, was captured in a video posted on Facebook by Wildlife Reserves Singapore last week.

He is the 32nd calf to be born in the Night Safari, and the first male since 2011. The last female calf was born just over a year ago.

Bintang's birth on June 28 is the latest success in breeding the endangered species at the Night Safari.

At the start of the two-minute video, his mother, 11-year-old Sakti, had already been in labour for 30 minutes. After giving birth to Bintang, she leaves for a while before returning to lick the calf, which weighed in at 10kg.

The typical gestation period for tapirs is 13 months. Adult tapirs typically weigh 250kg to 320kg.

Like all Malayan tapir calves at birth, Bintang sports a distinctive black coat with white spots and stripes - often referred to in jest as a black and white watermelon. The tapirs' patterned coats enable them to blend in well with the dappled forest floor in their native habitat in South-east Asia. Over the first six months, the pattern gradually transforms into the unique black and white marking of adult tapirs - a primarily black body with a patch of white extending from the shoulders to the rear end.

Bintang still feeds on his mother's milk and has just started to explore solid foods such as vegetables.

Ms Lee Tzu Ying, a junior zookeeper at the Night Safari, said: "Bintang took about three weeks to get used to water and learn how to swim, and he is an active calf which likes to run around while the keepers shower him."

Tapirs love the water and are adept swimmers which often seek refuge in the nearest body of water when pursued by predators.


Bintang still feeds on his mother's milk and has just started to explore solid foods consisting of vegetables, hay, pellets and leaves. PHOTO: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 27, 2020, with the headline 'Baby male Malayan tapir is new star of the Night Safari'. Print Edition | Subscribe