Thursday 19 February 2004
Find out why our baby Malayan Tapir looks so different
As many of you know, back in October last year we announced the exciting birth of an endangered Malayan Tapir, Tapirus Indicus here at London Zoo.
The new arriaval has now been sexed as female and called Sayang (meaning Loved One in Malaysian). She born to parents Hutan and Doris on October 4th 2003. At birth, and up until last month, Sayang was a chocolate brown colour, covered from snout to rear in cream spots and stripes- rather like a walking humbug!
In the wild, these markings would have helped her to blend in to her natural surroundings of sun-dappled Asian woodland, making her less vulnerable to predators. However, at nearly six months old Sayang is becoming more independent from her mother and as a result, has lost her 'camouflage' and developed the same simple grey and black coat as her parents.
Once fully grown, Sayang will reach approximately two metres in length. Tapirs have a snout and an upper lip which has elongated into a short, mobile trunk. They have a good sense of smell and use their extended nose to help pull leaves from branches for food.
Tapirs are shy and solitary creatures who live in the humid, swampy forests of south-east Asia and feed on aquatic vegetation and leaves. They are good swimmers and spend much of their day in water to keep cool - they also head straight for water when they are alarmed.
Father, Hutan and mother Doris, the proud parents, came to London Zoo in 1997 and 2000 respectively and are part of the global breeding programme that Sayang will also join when she gets older.
Unfortunately, Malayan tapir are endangered in the wild because of habitat destruction from agriculture and wood extraction, as well as human disturbance through civil unrest.