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Tapirs (extant/living species; Tapirus spp.) Fact Sheet: Summary

Tapirs (extant/living species; Tapirus spp.) Fact Sheet

Baird's tapir

Baird's Tapir (Tapirus bairdii)

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.

Taxonomy Physical 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

*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 & Status Behavior & 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
Malayan Tapir: Appendix I
Baird's Tapir: Appendix I
Mountain Tapir: Appendix I
Lowland Tapir: Appendix II

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 & Development Species Highlights

Sexual Maturity
2-3 years

13-14 months

Litter Size

Interbirth Interval
18 months, in managed care

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

Typical Life Expectancy
Managed care: median life expectancy of about 18 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
  • SDZWA has housed several species of tapir, starting in 1925 with a Baird's tapir

About This Fact Sheet

© 2009-2019, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. Taxonomy, body measurements, and population estimates updated in 2017. Taxonomy updated Feb 2019.


How to cite: Tapirs (extant/living species; Tapirus spp.) Fact Sheet. c2009-2019. San Diego (CA): San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance; [accessed YYYY Mmm dd].
(note: replace YYYY Mmm dd with date accessed, e.g., 2015 Sep 10)


Disclaimer: Although San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance 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

Adventures of a Young Tapir

Watch "Don Tapir" move, forage, and play at the San Diego Zoo.

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.

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