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There are five species of tapir around the world one in South East Asia and four in the Americas, since I’ve been lucky enough to have seen three of them I thought I’d start a tapir thread. So if you have any photos or videos of any of the following species please add them to this thread.



Malayan tapir (Tapirus indicus)


Is the largest and perhaps oddest looking species with its distinctive black & white colouration, this rainforest species is distributed along the Tenasserim Mts. from the borders of south eastern Burma and south west Thailand south along the Malay Peninsula and on the neighbouring island of Sumatra in Indonesia. There are no confirmed records from elsewhere in the region, it’s sometimes suggested that this species once occurred in Cambodia, southern Laos and southern Vietnam and is now extinct there; however the forests where tapirs were reputed to occur are too dry to support this species. They’ve never been reported from the wetter forests of the Annamite Mts. on the Laos/Vietnam border where tapirs could survive so it’s likely that the species was never found in any of these countries in recent historical times.


Range map



Baird’s tapir (Tapirus bairdii)


This species is the largest of the American tapirs and the largest native mammal in Central America where it is distributed from southern Mexico south to the far North West of Colombia west of the Andes in South America.


Range map



Mountain tapir (Tapirus pinchaque)


This small species also known as the woolly or Andean Tapir is found in cloud forests between 2000 and 4000 metres, alpine meadows and páramo grassland in the northern Andes in Colombia, Ecuador and a very small area of northern Peru. It has disappeared from the north of Colombia and may once have occurred over the border in western Venezuela but if it did it’s extinct there now.


Range map



Lowland tapir (Tapirus terrestris)


Also known as the Brazilian tapir this species is found throughout lowland tropical South America east of the Andes


Range map



Kabomani tapir (Tapirus kabomani)


This the smallest of the five species is also known as the little black tapir, remarkably this species found in the Amazon in southern Colombia and southwestern Brazil was only recognised in 2013. Despite the fact that native Amerindian peoples in this region have always known that there are two distinct tapir species, not only that but Theodore Roosevelt on one of his hunting trips to Brazil back in 1912 shot one. At the time he believed that the animal he’d shot was different to any of the lowland tapirs that he had previously shot, that the skull in particular was noticeably different and that it was probably a new species as he was aware that the natives recognised two species. However the American Museum of Natural History in New York where this specimen still resides disagreed and decided that Roosevelt’s tapir was just another lowland tapir. Throughout the 20th Century zoologists continued to ignore the views of Amerindian hunters that there were two distinct tapir species in lowland South America. It wasn’t until this century when Brazilian palaeontologist Mario Cozzuol started to really examine tapir skulls that it became apparent that the Amerindians and Roosevelt were right.


Scientists make one of the biggest animal discoveries of the century - a new tapir

Edited by inyathi
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The following Photos (scanned slides) taken with a Canon 35mm camera and Sigma 70-300mm lens, were taken from a hide called Bumbun Kumbang in Taman Negara NP in Peninsula Malaysia, back in 01 when I was still using film, they’re not the best photos, but I took them not really expecting to get any shots at all, as it was dusk and pretty dark. To get to the Kumbang hide requires an 11km hike through the rainforest from the park HQ at Kuala Tahan, unless you go part way by boat. I don’t suppose much has changed, so I assume the hide is still very basic with just three double bunks and some simple bathroom facilities. I hired a karrimat/mattress from the park campsite, as I correctly surmised that the beds would not have any and you have to take your own food.





Malayan Tapir seen from Bumbun Kumbang Taman Negara NP Malaysia by inyathi, on Flickr



Malayan tapirs are nocturnal and crepuscular (active dawn & dusk) species, hiding themselves away in the depths of the forest during the daytime. Even during the middle of the day, the dense tree canopy allows relatively little light to penetrate down to the forest floor, rendering the forest quite dark. In the evening as the sun goes down, it gets dark much quicker than would be the case in a more open environment and takes longer to get fully light in the morning. Even on the brightest of full moons, the forest floor remains largely dark, so the Malayan tapir lives primarily in a dark world and it’s thought that this might explain the animal’s unusual black and white colouration. Far from making the tapir very conspicuous as you might think , it actually acts as a form of camouflage, the black head and legs merge into the dark background, leaving only the central white portion of the body really visible. So any Malayan tiger or perhaps black panther prowling the forests of Taman Negara, would on spotting a tapir see just a large strange disembodied white blob, looking quite unlike an actual animal, well that’s the theory at least.



Malayan Tapir seen from Bumbun Kumbang Taman Negara NP Malaysia by inyathi, on Flickr


The tapir came to the saltlick at dusk, emerging from the forest soon after I reached the hide, so it’s important to try and get to the hide a good while before dusk, so you don’t risk disturbing the tapir or any other animals that might be around. Besides, anyone else staying in the hide is going to be pretty annoyed, if you walk in late when it’s already dusk. The tapir hung around all night, as it could still be seen at the saltlick at dawn; once it was fully light it disappeared back in to the forest.



Malayan Tapir Bumbun Kumbang Taman Negara NP Malaysia by inyathi, on Flickr



On my hike through the forest, I also came across tapir tracks which look a lot like small rhino tracks, tapirs have four toes on their front feet and three on their back feet so their tracks are quite distinctive. On firm ground the fourth toes on their front feet don’t always show so sometimes they may appear to have only three toes at the front, as well as the back. Although Sumatran rhino tracks were recorded in Taman Negara NP in 2003, camera traps failed to obtain any photos of rhinos, suggesting that by this time the rhino population was already perilously small. By now it’s quite possible that rhinos are extinct in the park or if they do still occur, it would only be in the very remotest areas where hardly anyone ever goes. So even if there are still a few, you’re extremely unlikely to come across rhino spoor in Taman Negara, therefore if you do see any suitable looking spoor, even if you can’t tell just from the size, you can be certain that you’re looking at tapir tracks.





Cropped version of the previous photo Malayan Tapir Bumbun Kumbang Taman Negara NP Malaysia by inyathi, on Flickr

Edited by inyathi
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Although it is perhaps hard to tell as this is a really poor photo, this is a mountain tapir also at a saltlick at the Cabañas San Isidro Lodge on the east side of the Andes in Ecuador. As this was at night it was just too dark to get any decent photos at least not without using a flashgun, which I didn’t have with me at that moment.




To make up for my not very good photo, here are a couple of camera trap videos from the lodge to show what the mountain tapir should look like.






I hope one day someone will post some better photos of this endangered species.

Edited by inyathi
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Video of Mama and baby Baird's Tapir, Corcovado:

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Thanks for this thread, @@inyathi - I love tapirs and was thrilled to see them in the wild!

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I hadn't read the story of the Kabomani tapir carefully before - now I did and funny thing is, I was just at the Museum of Natural History about 10 days ago! We spent a lot of time looking at all the animals and I took some photos but I can't recall now if I took one of tapirs - will have to go look through my photos and if I have one, I will post it! As a side note, did they go and kill all those animals just to put them in the museum? If so, that's kind of awful. They even had Okapi! But the Museum is quite amazing.

Edited by SafariChick
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Thank you, @@inyathi , a very informative read. I remember reading about the fifth Tapir species.

Was lucky enough to see several Lowland Tapirs in the Pantanal last September, four at Fazenda Sao Sebastao near River Paraguay, one near Rio Claro Lodge (actually right behind it) and one next to the Transpantaneira. All sightings were at night, so unfortunately I don´t have that many pics of them.



This was our best sighting, we were waiting at a waterhole, hoping for a Tapir to show up - and luckily they obliged.

And then there was Ninha:


A half-tame Tapir at Fazenda Sao Sebastao. Her mother was taken by a jagaur when she was just a few months old. The Pantaneiros took her in and raised her on the farm. She´s gone back to the wild since then, but every two weeks or so she returns to her home, goes straight into the kitchen and snatches herself some goodies.


Ninha is a very gentle, relaxed creature, she quite enjoyed being petted, not unlike a farm dog.



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Thanks @@michael-ibk & @@SafariChick for the photos


It really is extraordinary that an animal as large as the Kabomani tapir could have remained hidden effectively in plain sight for so long. The IUCN Red List hasn’t caught up with this species yet so I wasn’t able to find a range map and I’m guessing that no one has actually worked out what its full distribution may be. The article that I linked to says that it occurs in southwestern Brazil and southern Colombia however searching the web I’ve found a couple of articles from Bolivia claiming that the species occurs there as well, here’s one I found in English (though not the best English)


The new dwarf anta [tapir] may be Bolivian ‘flagship species’


Perhaps it occurs elsewhere too, whatever the case I don’t know exactly where you would need to go in order to try and see a live one. I'll have to try and find out some day, until I read about the little black tapir I thought I only needed to see Baird's to have seen the 'full set' :). Unless @@SafariChick you do happen to have a photo of the museum specimen I don’t imagine anyone will post any photos of this species, but you never know.


My final photos (for now) are of a lowland/Brazilian tapir photographed on the Cuiaba River in the Pantanal near Porto Jofre in Brazil 2012


Canon EOS 50D + 100-400mm lens






As seen in my report Brazil, Birds, Beasts and Big Waters

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  • 5 months later...

Maybe there are some new tapir photos that can be added to this topic? :)

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  • 8 months later...

Saw this mom and baby in a field next to the highway in western Brazil. Not the best photo in the world, but I had to grab the image quickly as there wasn't much room on the side of the road to pull over. Couldn't believe the luck in seeing these guys in broad daylight out in the open.



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Saw this mom and baby in a field next to the highway in western Brazil. Not the best photo in the world, but I had to grab the image quickly as there wasn't much room on the side of the road to pull over. Couldn't believe the luck in seeing these guys in broad daylight out in the open.


~ @@ellenhighwater


Very, very COOL !!!!!!!!!!

That's my idea of a dream tapir shot.

I hope that @@jeremie sees it, as it shows South American wildlife in such a favorable setting.

The baby tapir's camouflage stripes do resemble forest shadows.

What a shot! Both mom and baby in an unobstructed view.

I really like this!

Thank you for posting it.

Tom K.

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Brazil -Pantanal North, Pouso Alegre September 2015

We had spent a few hours in a hide the previous afternoon waiting for a Tapir - with no luck. On this afternoon we set out with the intention of revisiting the hide, but a few hundred metres from the lodge we saw....





We were thrilled!

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I was considering Pouso Alegre for tapirs observations for a 2016 trip in Pantanal.

What are your conclusions about this place? How long should we stay at PA to have good chances to see a tapir? How are PA chances compared to other places such as FBA according to your own experience and knowledge?


By the way your pictures are spectacular.

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  • 2 weeks later...


Sorry I am late replying to this (for some reason my name is in blue and the system did not notify me)

We liked Pouso Alegre. There is a "hide" (actually a very open wooden sructure) at a pool where tapirs visit regularly (though not on the afternoon we visited it!). We stayed 3 nights, so had 2 full days. We didn't see a tapir on the first full afternoon, but saw this one on the second afternoon.


We didn't see Tapir at Barranco Alto (I think that is FBA?) - but @@Bush dog

has some very fine photos of tapirs taken there in his report. Barranco Altois a very fine lodge.

Edited by TonyQ
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  • 1 year later...



Lowland/Brazilian tapir seen on a night drive at Pouso Alegre in the Pantanal


Edited by inyathi
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Thanks for resurrecting this thread @@inyathi - I just now noticed it for the first time. Besides sharing your good photos, you gave an outstanding introductory briefing about tapir species!


And wonderful photos - thanks to @@SafariChick @@michael-ibk @@TonyQ and @@ellenhighwater. I did not know baby tapirs were stripey like deer fawns!

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  • 5 weeks later...

I am really excited that I can finally contribute to this thread. A Tapir has been on my list to see for a long time and it finally happened in the Pantanal last September.


As others have said, there is a nice pond you can stake out at Pouso Alegre. It was here that we got our very first looks at a Brazilian/Lowland Tapir. It wasn't a great look what with it being pitch black, but it counts!





Then, later than night we cruised the road at Pouso Alegre and found another Tapir eating right next to the road:







But, we weren't done yet. As we were leaving Pouso Alegre for our drive to Porto Jofre and approaching the Transpantaneira, we spotted this...




What a thrill it was to watch this Tapir for about a half hour in this pond:






Pesky flies...



I couldn't have dreamed of better encounters than we had at Pouso Alegre.


Our luck continued at Barranco Alto where we saw 4 more Tapirs but only one was close enough for pictures:




I can now cross the Brazilian Tapir off my bucket list. Now, time to find the other 4 species... :) .



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  • 3 months later...

Love the Malayan tapir pics especially---how cool to see that! I saw two tapirs at Pouso Alegre in the Brazilian Pantanal. one on a long horse ride on the "back 40" so I snapped a pic using my iphone as quick;y as possible. We disturbed its spa day in a hyacinth filled pond. We also saw one at night feeding under a fruit tree:





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