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Endangered Malaysian tapir found dead on arrival in Taiwan

06/22/2024 08:32 PM
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Malaysian tapir Hideo. Photo courtesy of Zoorasia Zoo via Taipei Zoo June 22, 2024
Malaysian tapir Hideo. Photo courtesy of Zoorasia Zoo via Taipei Zoo June 22, 2024

Taipei, June 22 (CNA) An endangered animal, a Malaysian tapir, which was being transported by air from Japan to Taiwan, was found dead upon arrival at Taiwan's main airport Friday night, Taipei Zoo said Saturday.

The tapir, named Hideo, was sent from Zoorasia Zoo in Yokohama City to Taipei Zoo, as part of an exchange program.

When Hideo was put on the plane around 7 p.m. Friday in Japan, it showed no signs of distress, Taipei Zoo said in a press release.

However, when the Malaysian tapir was taken off the plane after arrival at Taoyuan International Airport about two hours later, blood smears were seen in its crate, the zoo said.

Taipei Zoo personnel, who were at the airport to receive the tapir, confirmed at 9:35 p.m. that the endangered animal was not breathing, according to the press release.

They immediately informed Taipei Zoo and customs officers, and the processing of Hideo's papers was expedited, the zoo said.

The tapir was transported to Taipei Zoo, where it was put into a quarantine area, but it was pronounced dead at five minutes after midnight, the zoo said, adding that there were no visible injuries.

Taipei Zoo spokesperson Eric Tsao (曹先紹) told the media that a caretaker had accompanied Hideo to the airport in Japan, but no specialists had traveled on the plane with the animal.

The circumstances of the endangered creature's death are "very likely a first in the world," Tsao said.

Tapirs are commonly transported around the world by plane, and that practice would have been discontinued if it was deemed to be high risk, he said.

An autopsy will be performed Sunday by experts from National Taiwan University (NTU), who will seek to determine whether Hideo had any preexisting health conditions or had suffered trauma as a result of the change in environment, Tsao said.

Taiwan and Japan are both saddened by the incident and will work together to find the cause of Hideo's death, he said.

The Malayan tapir, native to Southeast Asia, is the only living tapir species outside of the Americas.

Since 2008, it has been listed as an endangered species on the red list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, as the mature population is estimated at fewer than 2,500.

(By Chen Yi-hsuan and James Lo)

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