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August 8, 2011 | by  | in Opinion |
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Animal of the Week – The Malayan Tapir

Imagine an animal that looks like a pig, with the trunk of an anteater and the body of a panda, but is closely related to horses and rhinoceroses and is nick-named the “Asian Mountain Cow”. This eclectic combination of animals in fact describes the Malayan tapir—this week’s Animal of the Week.

This is the largest of the four tapir species, growing up to 2.5 metres in length and weighing up to 500kg. The skull of these odd-looking creatures is vastly different from the typical mammalian skull. The proboscis (large, trunk-like nose) caused the bones in the tapir’s face to retract over time, making way for strong musculature. These strong muscles allow the proboscis to be used as an excellent digging and foraging tool.

To add to the Malayan tapir’s cosmopolitan nature, these animals are excellent swimmers. They have been known to not only swim to cool off, but to dive completely underwater and walk along the bottom in search of food.

Despite their appearance, tapir are extremely agile. The combination of this speed, their size and their incredibly thick hide makes them invulnerable to almost all predation. Even reports of tiger predation are scarce. However, tapir are hugely threatened by human activities such as poaching and deforestation. As such, there is now a World Tapir Day—so next April 27, take a moment to think of the Malayan tapir. *

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