Publication update 11: All about tapirs


Reuben’s and Sheema’s latest publications are all about the Asian Tapir (Tapirus indicus). Compared to its New World counterparts, the only tapir species to be found in the Old World is relatively poorly studied. Despite its striking appearance, its distribution in Peninsular Malaysia is still largely based on guesswork rather than in-depth, long-term research. Scientists have also been unable to get an accurate idea of its population size.

These two papers published in Integrative Zoology aren’t part of Rimba’s work though; they’re the product of a research collaboration led by WWF-Malaysia that is the first attempt in the country to identify tapir individuals based on their specific black-and-white markings. This study is a spin-off from Mark and Shariff’s tiger study under WWF-Malaysia, after they noticed that some of the tapirs caught on their camera-trap photos had unique markings which distinguished them from each other. Our experience here suggests that it may be possible to conduct a population estimate of tapirs using a spatially-explicit capture-recapture (SECR) model, an improvement over traditional capture-recapture techniques.

Additionally, Reuben decided to utilise Maximum Entropy (MaxEnt)  to predict where we might find tapirs throughout Peninsular Malaysia. This technique has typically been used by researchers to identify areas where rare and threatened species might still be found, based on records of their presence elsewhere. Of course, this work is all still very preliminary, and caveats always exist!

To read more about our tapir work, click on the links below:

1. Rayan M.D., Mohamad S.W., Dorward L., Aziz S.A., Clements G.R., Christopher W.C.T., Traeholt C. and Magintan D. 2012. Estimating the population density of the Asian tapir (Tapirus indicus) in a selectively logged forest in Peninsular Malaysia. Integrative Zoology 7: 373-380.

2. Clements G.R., Rayan D.M., Aziz S.A., Kawanishi K., Traeholt C., Magintan D., Yazi M.F.A. and Tingley R. 2012. Predicting the distribution of the Asian tapir in Peninsular Malaysia using maximum entropy modeling. Integrative Zoology 7: 400-406.


3 thoughts on “Publication update 11: All about tapirs

  1. Thanks Zaharil! If you’re referring to the photos used in the paper, there was only one occasion when two adult tapirs were camera-trapped together in the same photo. If you’re wondering about the rest of the tapir photos in the study, you’ll have to ask Mark Rayan and Shariff Mohamad from WWF-Malaysia, as it’s their data and they’re the ones who carried out the fieldwork! As for Rimba’s work, in Kenyir and Gerik Reuben has occasionally camera-trapped tapir adults in pairs, as well as mother with baby. You’re really lucky to encounter two together! 🙂

  2. Good job Reuben and Sheema. Just out of curiosity, were there any camera trap shots showing the Tapirs in pairs? Recently, I was extremely lucky two encounter an adult pairs but I did have enough time to photograph them.

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