'Extremely rare' tapir spotted in Punggol likely swam to Singapore from Malaysia

Ian Cheng
The Straits Times
July 23, 2023

A Malayan tapir that was spotted at the Punggol Park Connector most likely swam to Singapore from Malaysia, said the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) on Sunday.

On Saturday morning, Mr Richard Seah posted on the Singapore Wildlife Sightings Facebook group that he had just seen a tapir “the size of a large pig” on the Punggol Park Connector opposite Coney Island.

“It was very shy and ran off,” he said, adding that he did not manage to take any photos as it was too quick, and that video footage from his GoPro camera was too blur.

Another member of the group, MC Wai, shared a photo and video of a tapir in the comment section of Mr Seah’s post, and said he had reported the sighting to the National Parks Board.

In the video, the rear end of the tapir can be seen as it trots along the path, occasionally weaving towards either side. It appears to notice the person filming, and veers off to the right of the path into the vegetation. It continues forward beneath the cover of darkness, illuminated every few metres by the glow of street lamps.

Co-CEO of Acres Kalai Vanan Balakrishnan told The Straits Times: “We hope that the tapir will find its way back or that it will be repatriated back if it’s caught.”

In 2016, a Malayan tapir was sighted in Changi, where the endangered animal was seen at about 4.30am trotting alongside a metal fence.

A tapir was seen near the coast at Changi at about 4.30am on June 24, 2016. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO READER

According to Mr Kalai, the Acres wildlife rescue team had received a call about the sighting at the time, but the tapir “fortunately entered back into the sea and hopefully found a suitable habitat in its native range”.

Malayan Tapirs are seldom seen here. Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum officer Marcus Chua told ST in 2016 that such a sighting was “extremely rare for Singapore”.

Besides the 2016 sighting, the last recorded sighting of a tapir in Singapore was on Pulau Ubin in 1986.

The nocturnal animal is dependent on the rainforest habitat. While the tapir looks like a wild boar with a longer snout, it is more closely related to horses and rhinos. It feeds mostly on leaves, which it can grab using its prehensile snout.

Malayan tapirs can be found in Sumatra, Peninsular Malaysia and Southern Thailand. They are globally endangered, mainly due to loss of available habitats, fragmentation of remaining habitats and increasing loss of individuals due to hunting, road kills and by-catches by snare hunters, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

It is estimated that fewer than 2,500 mature individuals remain.

The Straits Times

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