The Malayan tapir was once found throughout the tropical lowland rainforests of Southeast Asia, including Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, and Vietnam. However, its numbers have decreased in recent years, and today, like all tapirs, it is in danger of extinction. The main threat to the Malayan tapirs is human activity, including deforestation for agricultural purposes, flooding caused by the damming of rivers for hydroelectric projects, and illegal trade.
In Thailand, for instance, capture and sale of a young tapir may be worth US$5500.00.
In areas such as Sumatra, where the population is predominantly Muslim, tapirs are seldom hunted for food, as their physical similarity to pigs has made tapir meat a taboo, but in some regions they are hunted for sport or shot accidentally when mistaken for other animals.
Protected status in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand, which seeks to curb deliberate killing of tapirs but does not address the issue of habitat loss, has had limited effect in reviving or maintaining the population.