Learn about the Malaysian tapir from these places around the country

Sungai Dusun Wildlife Conservation Centre is the sole centre in Malaysia that focuses on tapirs.

April 27 marked the 17th World Tapir Day (WTD), which is an annual celebration. According to WTD’s official website (tapirday.org), the special day was established in 2008 not only to raise awareness about the endangered animal but also to build a community around tapir conservation.

Currently, there are only four recognised extant tapir species left worldwide. Baird’s tapir (Tapirus bairdii), Brazilian tapir (Tapirus terrestris) and Mountain tapir (Tapirus pinchaque) are the three species found in Central and South America. There was reportedly a new species discovered in South America, but since the Kabomani tapir’s revelation in 2013 it has yet to receive a classification of its own, as it was believed to have simply been a misidentified juvenile Brazilian tapir.

Only one species calls South-East Asia home: our very own Malayan tapir (Tapirus indicus). Known by several names in Bahasa Malaysia and local dialects such as tenuk and cipan, the Malayan tapir is the lovable black-and-white animal that we occasionally see in the local news. Unfortunately, often for sad reasons such as getting run down while trying to cross the roads.

As humans continue to encroach on wildlife’s territories, more and more native animals become endangered. Malayan tapir, for example, has fewer than 1,500 adults left in the wild – a number that dwindles by the year.

The tapirs’ continued existence – as “seed dispersers” – is essential for a balanced ecosystem. Even if you’re not a fan of tapirs, you may want to look into supporting and learning more about the rapidly declining species to prevent their untimely extinction and protect our rainforests.

You don’t have to go looking for them in the wild, instead there are a few places in Malaysia that you can visit to see a tapir or two (though one of these places will require special permission).

Visitors can feed the tapirs at Sunway Lost World Of Tambun. — NIEZAM ABDULLAH/mStarVisitors can feed the tapirs at Sunway Lost World Of Tambun. — NIEZAM ABDULLAH/mStarSunway Lost World Of Tambun

Have you ever wondered how’s it like feeding a tapir? Or what it even eats in the first place? Get your questions answered at Sunway Lost World Of Tambun in Ipoh, Perak.

The park map and feeding schedule on the theme park’s official website (sunwaylostworldoftambun.com) will inform you exactly where and when to meet the tapirs. Make sure to say “hi” to the latest member of the family, Panchor, a rescued tapir that was relocated to the park last year.

Open from 11am (10am on weekends) until 6pm every day except Tuesday, the ticket rates start from RM123 online or RM128 walk-in. There are also membership passes that allow annual access, priced from RM160.

Another Perak attraction with tapirs, four in total, is Zoo Taiping & Night Safari. Located within Taiping Lake Gardens, it is one of the oldest zoos in Malaysia, having been in operation since 1961. Ticketing info is available on zootaiping.gov.my, with ticket prices starting from RM8 for children and RM16 for adults.

The tapir enclosure at 99 Wonderland Park has a jacuzzi pool. — Photos: FilepicThe tapir enclosure at 99 Wonderland Park has a jacuzzi pool. — Photos: Filepic99 Wonderland Park

Located just 20 minutes from the Kuala Lumpur city centre, in Pusat Bandar Utara Selayang, is 99 Wonderland Park. Also known as Wildlife In The City, the roughly 10ha park allows ample space for plenty of attractions, including a “Tapir Jacuzzi”.

If reading that immediately made you visualise tapirs soaking contentedly, that is precisely what it is. The park even earned a distinction as “the first Malayan tapir exhibit in Malaysia with a jacuzzi”. You might end up covetously eyeing the tapirs’ relaxing enclosure, featuring the said jacuzzi pool which connects to the 100m-long Golden Waterfall.

So significant is the exhibit to this park that even its logo proudly displays a pair of tapirs enjoying their pool.

As stated on the official website (99wonderlandpark.com.my), entrance fees start from RM25, with either morning session (9am-4pm) or afternoon session (5pm-11pm/midnight) to choose from daily.

Jessy The Tapir is one of Zoo Negara’s many inhabitants.Jessy The Tapir is one of Zoo Negara’s many inhabitants.Zoo Negara

Another animal-filled attraction located just 20 minutes away from the city centre is none other than Zoo Negara, or the National Zoo of Malaysia.

Opened on Nov 14, 1963, the 44ha zoo in Ampang currently houses a couple of tapirs among its many animals. Check out the map on its official website (zoonegara.my) to easily locate the tapirs’ enclosure.

You can even adopt Jessy The Tapir through the zoo’s “Adopt An Animal” programme, which lets animal lovers adopt certain animals to ensure sufficient fund to care for them.

Standard rates for the zoo’s entrance fees start from RM18 for kids and RM45 for adults. There is also a membership card, Zooku Child Card, priced at RM35 that allows unlimited annual access for the card holder and 20% off on the parents’ tickets for every visit.

You can also enter without any charge during your birthday! Just claim the free ticket within 30 days from your birth date.

Sungai Dusun Wildlife Conservation Centre

While the rest of the entries consist of zoos and wildlife parks, Sungai Dusun Wildlife Conservation Centre (SDWCC) is the sole conservation centre in Malaysia that focuses on tapirs.

As such, walk-ins are not allowed, but you may submit a request to the Department Of Wildlife And National Parks Peninsular Malaysia (Perhilitan) for a special permit to enter the centre. Contact details may be obtained from Perhilitan’s official website at wildlife.gov.my.

To be precise, it is at the Malay Tapir Conservation Centre within SDWCC that you will see the eponymous animal. Here, a breeding programme is run to help increase the tapir population. Researchers also visit the centre to conduct studies on the tapirs in captivity.

The centre is located in Kuala Kubu Baru, the district capital of Hulu Selangor, which is about an hour’s drive from Kuala Lumpur.

Johor Zoo is currently closed for renovation and upgrading works. — THOMAS YONG/The StarJohor Zoo is currently closed for renovation and upgrading works. — THOMAS YONG/The Star

Johor Zoo

You might have heard of the “runaway tapir” that escaped the Johor Zoo earlier this month. If you’d like to pay it a visit, you can do so once the zoo reopens.

Having been closed since 2020 for renovation and upgrading works, the oldest zoo in Malaysia, which has been around since 1928, is set to reopen this August.

While it remains to be seen whether the admission fee to the Johor Baru attraction will remain as low as RM1 for children and RM2 for adults, it was promised by a state exco member that the pricing will still be the lowest “not only in (Malaysia) but also in Asia.”

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