This is the "Summary" page of the "Tapirs (extant species; Tapirus spp.) Fact Sheet, 2009" guide.
Alternate Page for Screenreader Users
Skip to Page Navigation
Skip to Page Content
sdzglibrarybanner San Diego Zoo Global Library

Tapirs (extant species; Tapirus spp.) Fact Sheet, 2009   Tags: conservation, crespuscular, crops, endangered, fact sheet, forest, nocturnal, nose, san diego zoo, sdzg, snout, swim, tapir, wallow, water  

Tapirs (extant species)
Last Updated: May 10, 2017 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

Summary Print Page

Tapirs (extant species; Tapirus spp.) Fact Sheet, 2009

Baird's Tapir

Baird's Tapir

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Global. All rights reserved.

TaxonomyPhysical Characteristics

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Perissodactyla - odd-toed ungulates

Family: Tapiridae - tapirs

Genus: Tapirus

*Species: Tapirus indicus - Malayan tapir, Asian tapir
*Species: Tapirus bairdii - Baird's tapir
*Species: Tapirus pinchaque - Mountain tapir, Andrean tapir
*Species: Tapirus terrestris - Brazilian tapir, South American tapir, lowland tapir
*Species: Tapirus kabomani

*Taxonomists are still debating the organization of tapir species. The above taxonomy is followed by IUCN, but also see alternate species taxonomy in Taxonomy.

Head-body length
Lowland tapir: 191-242 cm (75-95 in)
Central American tapir: 200-230 cm (79-91 in)
Mountain tapir: 180-200 cm (71-79 in)
Malayan tapir: 250-300 cm (98-118 in)

Tail Length
Less than 10 cm for all species.

Lowland tapir: 180-300 kg (397-661 lb)
Central American tapir: 250-350 kg (551-772 lb)
Mountain tapir: 150-200 kg (331-441 lb)
Malayan tapir: 280-400 kg (617-882)

Short hair; some species with manes. Coloration varies by species.

Distribution & StatusBehavior & Ecology

Asia, Central America, and South America

Tropical rainforests, marshes, and swamps; mangroves; lowland (Brazilian) tapir may occupy drier habitats

IUCN Status
Malayan, Baird's, and mountain tapirs: Endangered
Lowland tapir: Vulnerable

CITES Appendix
All species listed onAppendix I

Other Designations
U.S. Endangered Species Act: all species endangered

Populations in the Wild
Populations declining for all species.
Baird's tapir: fewer than 5,500
Malay tapir: approximately 2,500-3,000
Mountain tapir: fewer than 2,500
Lowland tapir: no reliable estimates

Walk in zig-zag fashion, with snout close to ground for better smelling. Good swimmers.

Activity Cycle
Feed before dawn and at dusk. Rest during the day; sleep between midnight and dawn.

Social Groups
Generally solitary, except during breeding season

Wide variety of plant material, including herbs, twigs, shrubs, grass, fruit, and berries

Humans, crocodiles, jaguars/large cats, anacondas, tigers (in Asia)

Reproduction & DevelopmentSpecies Highlights

Sexual Maturity
2-3 years

13-14 months

Litter Size

Interbirth Interval
18 months, in captivity

Birth Weight
14-25 lbs birth (6-11 kg)

25-30 years

Feature Facts

  • Very shy
  • Distinctive, flexible proboscis-like snout/nose
  • Love water and wallowing in mud
  • Keen senses of hearing and smell; scent mark with urine
  • Baby tapirs reddish-brown with white striped/spotted coats (good camouflage)
  • Important role as tropical seed dispersers
  • Often mate in water
  • Losing habitat to agriculture

About This Fact Sheet

© 2009 San Diego Zoo Global. Taxonomy, body measurements, and population estimates updated in 2017.

How to cite: Tapirs (extant species; Tapirus spp.). c2009-2017. San Diego (CA): San Diego Zoo Global; [accessed YYYY Mmm dd].
(note: replace YYYY Mmm dd with date accessed, e.g., 2015 Sep 10)

Disclaimer: Although San Diego Zoo Global makes every attempt to provide accurate information, some of the facts provided may become outdated or replaced by new research findings. Questions and comments may be addressed to


Blending In For Protection

Young Malayan tapir standing on land

Having speckled coloration helps this young Malayan tapir camoflague with its forest habitat.

These spots resemble how sunlight looks on the rainforest floor (after passing through the canopy).

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Global. All rights reserved.

SDZG Library Links

Our Mission. The Library is dedicated to supporting San Diego Zoo Global’s mission by providing outstanding
information resources and research services to advance knowledge and strengthen our organization’s capacity to save
species worldwide. Our Vision. We will empower San Diego Zoo Global to lead the fight against extinction by serving as
the organization’s information hub and facilitating research of the highest quality.

© 2016 San Diego Zoo Global — All Rights Reserved

Our Family of Sites

  • Zoo logoSan Diego Zoo
  • Park logoSan Diego Zoo Safari Park
  • ICR logoSan Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research
  • SDZ Global logoSan Diego Zoo Global

Loading  Loading...