The family Tapiridae belongs to the order Perissodactyla (odd-toed ungulate) and has four living species. The Malay tapir, Tapirus indicus, is the only Asian representative of the family Tapiridae. The remaining three species, mountain tapir (T. pinchaque), lowland tapir (T. terrestris), and Baird’s tapir (T. bairdii) are found in Neotropics.
The Malay tapir is the largest among the tapir species. It can reach a weight of up to 540 kg but usually weighs about 300-350 kg. It is the only species with unique black and white coloration. Young calves of all tapir species share a similar pattern of yellow stripes on a brown coat.
In Peninsula Malaysia the tapir has been totally protected since 1955 under the Wildlife Animals and Birds Ordinance that was replaced by the present federal legislation, Wildlife Protection Act No. 1976 of 1972. The Wildlife Protection Act provides for mandatory jail sentence of up to 10 years for offenders possessing, for example, more than 25 snares for trapping large mammals.
On a global scale the Malay tapir is the rarest of all tapir species and the only species that is considered as globally endangered. It is listed in CITES appendix 1 and categorised as Vulnerable (VU: A1c+2c, B2cd+3a, C1+2b) in the IUCN Red Data List. However, due to the continued population decline and habitat destruction in its range countries the IUCN-tapir specialist group (TSG), that convened in Panama for the 2nd International Tapir Symposium (January 2004), may recommend the species being uplifted to a higher threat category in the future.