Known as Baku in Japan, the Malayan tapir is also a mythological creature in the country’s folklore.
“The Baku is known to devour nightmares.
“Therefore, it is believed that people will be able to sleep well and have good dreams when they sleep by laying pictures of Baku under their pillows,” says Japan’s ambassador to Malaysia Hiroshi Oka.
“Japanese people have a good impression of tapirs as Baku is a lucky charm for us.”
Malayan tapirs are popular in Japan for their unique black and white colouring and long snout, Oka explains.
Many tapir merchandise and toys can be found in Japan.
“Although there are four kinds of tapirs in the world, most Japanese people refer to the Malayan tapirs when they think of or talk about tapirs,” he says, adding that the tapir-inspired Pokémon game character “Drowzee” is also popular with children.
In 2015, two Malayan tapirs, Im and Bertam, arrived at the Nagasaki Bio Park to stay for 10 years under a joint conservation programme by Malaysia and Japan.
Bertam subsequently gave birth to two calves, Persa and Jam, named after the Malay words persahabatan (friendship) and jambatan (bridge)”.
“I hope the Malayan tapir will become the symbol and the bridge of friendship between Malaysia and Japan,” Oka says.
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