SINGAPORE — On Sunday (Sept 10) morning, a man cycling along the Punggol Park Connector was overtaken by a most unusual runner: A large Malayan tapir.
Facebook user “Pong Posadas” posted a video of the endangered mammal in the Facebook group SG PCN (Park Connector Network) Cyclist on Monday morning, saying that the sighting had taken place at 6.25am on Sunday as he was cycling towards the Lorong Halus Bridge.
He wrote in the caption: “I was doing my normal morning cycling, then I heard something running behind me. I thought I was hearing a horse coming from behind me.
“Then I just slowed down and let it pass and it overtook me: It was a tapir!!! Was shocked and amazed to see this amazing creature!”
In just six hours, the post has already amassed 1,700 reactions, 280 comments and 1,000 shares.
Mr Ryan Lee, group director of wildlife management at the National Parks Board (NParks), told TODAY on Monday that NParks is “aware of the sighting of a Malayan Tapir (Tapirus indicus) at Punggol” and has deployed its staff members to monitor the area for further sightings.
“Sightings of tapir in the wild in Singapore are rare,” he added. “This may be the second sighting of a tapir this year on mainland Singapore with the first sighting reported in July 2023.”
On July 22, members of the Singapore Wildlife Sightings group on Facebook said that they had seen a tapir “the size of a large pig” on the Punggol Park Connector, opposite Coney Island.
For the latest sighting, some online users expressed shock and fear at the sight, the majority were more concerned about the well-being of the animal.
One top comment read: “Poor tapir, (it) must be scared as hell being out in the open like this.”
Another agreed: “Oh, this is scary to me. If I went cycling there alone, I (would) probably collapse from jelly legs. But (I’m) sorry that it must be scared too, to be alone and running away because it seems lost without its natural habitat.”
NParks said that if members of the public encounter a tapir, they should:
Remain calm and quiet and not make any sudden movementsNot try to approach or feed the animalKeep a safe distance and do not corner or provoke the animal, such as by using flash photography while taking pictures of itCall the 24-hour Animal Response Centre to report any sightings of the tapir or for other wildlife-related issues
The Malayan tapir originates from the rainforests of Malaysia and is classified as endangered under the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species.
In 2016, a tapir was spotted in Changi. At the time, Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum officer Marcus Chua told The Straits Times that tapir sightings are “extremely rare” in Singapore.
Before 2016, the last recorded sighting of a tapir in Singapore was in 1986 on Pulau Ubin.
The Malayan tapir typically grows up to 2.4 metres in length, and its height can go up to 107cm — more than half of a human’s height.
Tapirs are also fast and agile swimmers.
For the July sighting, Mr Kalai Vanan Balakrishnan, co-chief executive officer of the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres), said at the time that the tapir was likely to have swam from Malaysia to Singapore.
Acres also told The Straits Times that the tapir had “fortunately entered back into the sea and hopefully found a suitable habitat in its native range”.
Similarly, Facebook user “Pong Posadas” wrote in the comments section of his post that the tapir he spotted on Sunday had later found an opening in the fence and headed straight for the water.
He said that he had also been scared, “but mostly shocked” when he was overtaken by the tapir.
“I felt the gush of wind when it passed me… It made me wake up faster than coffee!” he joked.
Other Facebook users marvelled at how “well-behaved” the tapir was, saying that it was better than other human users of the Park Connector Network at following the guidelines for use, such as keeping to the left.
TODAY has reached out to the Facebook user who posted about the sighting and Acres for comment.