SINGAPORE: A leisurely Sunday morning cycle turned into an unexpected encounter with nature for a cyclist in Punggol.
Around 6:30 a.m. on 10 September, a cyclist named Pong Posadas was pleasantly surprised when a swift-moving Malayan tapir overtook him on the cycling path.
The cyclist who goes by the name Pong Posadas recorded the remarkable encounter on camera and posted the video on the SG PCN Cyclist Facebook community.
The cyclist’s encounter likely represents the second sighting of its kind this year, with a prior sighting in Punggol reported on 22 July.
Wild Ride in Punggol
The video showed the tapir galloping ahead, leaving the cyclist in its wake.
Describing the experience, Posadas said, “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.”
The footage depicted the tapir running at a surprisingly rapid pace.
Posadas maintained a safe distance from the wild animal and quickly turned around when the tapir came to a halt.
The cyclist stated that, at one point, the tapir also passed another person traveling in the opposite direction.
Posadas further clarified in the comments of his post that the tapir, which he had encountered on that memorable Sunday, had later discovered an opening in the fence, leading it straight to the water.
Second Tapir sighting within two months
Two months ago, another Malayan tapir was sighted near the Punggol Park Connector, just opposite Coney Island.
Kalai Vanan Balakrishnan, Co-CEO of Acres, suspected that this tapir likely swam from Malaysia to Singapore.
“We hope that the tapir will find its way back or that it will be repatriated back if it’s caught, ” he told the Straits Times at the time.
Acres also informed The Straits Times that the tapir had fortunately returned to the sea, possibly finding a suitable habitat in its native range.
Authorities advise the public not to approach or feed tapirs when spotted in public areas.
It is crucial to maintain a safe distance and avoid actions that may provoke the animal, such as using flash photography.
Notably, in 2016, a Malayan tapir was spotted in Changi, trotting alongside a metal fence around 4:30 a.m.
Apart from the 2016 sighting, the most recent documented tapir sighting in Singapore was on Pulau Ubin back in 1986.
Proficient Swimmers and timid visitors from Malaysia
Malayan tapirs are known for their agility and swimming abilities.
While there is no historical record of wild tapirs residing in Singapore, it is believed that these tapirs were visitors from Johor, Malaysia.
Their strong swimming capabilities make it possible for them to reach mainland Singapore directly from Malaysia or use nearby islands as pit stops.
Tapirs, often described as living fossils, have been in existence since the Eocene epoch.
However, all four species of tapirs are currently endangered or vulnerable due to habitat destruction and poaching.
Despite their resemblance to elephants, hippos, or pigs, tapirs are more closely related to horses and rhinos.
These unique creatures reproduce slowly, with only one baby at a time, and each pregnancy lasts approximately 13 to 14 months, according to the Tapirs Specialist Group.
The Malayan tapir is the largest among the four species and is classified as an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.
Additionally, it is listed on CITES Appendix I, which generally prohibits international trade in individuals of this species.
The Malayan tapir holds a special place in the conservation efforts of Malaysia, even though it can also be found in the Indonesian island of Sumatra, southern Thailand, and Myanmar.