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Keywords:

  • ecological niche;
  • IUCN;
  • Malayan tapir;
  • mammal;
  • MaxEnt;
  • species distribution model

Abstract

In 2008, the IUCN threat status of the Asian tapir (Tapirus indicus) was reclassified from ‘vulnerable’ to ‘endangered’. The latest distribution map from the IUCN Red List suggests that the tapirs’ native range is becoming increasingly fragmented in Peninsular Malaysia, but distribution data collected by local researchers suggest a more extensive geographical range. Here, we compile a database of 1261 tapir occurrence records within Peninsular Malaysia, and demonstrate that this species, indeed, has a much broader geographical range than the IUCN range map suggests. However, extreme spatial and temporal bias in these records limits their utility for conservation planning. Therefore, we used maximum entropy (MaxEnt) modeling to elucidate the potential extent of the Asian tapir's occurrence in Peninsular Malaysia while accounting for bias in existing distribution data. Our MaxEnt model predicted that the Asian tapir has a wider geographic range than our fine-scale data and the IUCN range map both suggest. Approximately 37% of Peninsular Malaysia contains potentially suitable tapir habitats. Our results justify a revision to the Asian tapir's extent of occurrence in the IUCN Red List. Furthermore, our modeling demonstrated that selectively logged forests encompass 45% of potentially suitable tapir habitats, underscoring the importance of these habitats for the conservation of this species in Peninsular Malaysia.