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Visayan Warty Pig

CONSERVATION STATUS : CRITICALLY ENDANGERED
COMMON EXTINCT
Classification:

Other Common Names: Cebu bearded pig
Order:
Artiodactyla
Genus & Species: Sus cebifrons
Family: Suidae

Status:

Listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List.

Range:

Asia: Central Philippine Islands (Visayan Islands) of Negros, Panay, and perhaps Masbate.  Originally from sea level to 5300 ft (1600 m); now found only above 2600 ft (800 m).

Habitat:

Forests: lowland and montane rainforests and near crop land.

Activity:

Commonly found in groups of four to five; occasionally in groups of up to twelve. Generally social, living in close-knit groups called “sounders” comprised of one adult male and several females. Wild pig home range of sounders often overlap, with shared feeding grounds, water holes, mud wallows, resting sites, and sleeping dens.  There have not been many detailed studies of Visayan warty pigs in the wild.  Captive observation of this species indicates that they are active during most parts of the day. They root and burrow, take mud baths, and cool themselves in pools of water.

Longevity:

Wild pigs’ lifespan in the wild averages around 10 years.  In captivity, up to 25 years has been recorded.

Diet:

Herbivorous.

Diet in the wild: roots, tubers and fruits found in forest areas. They may also eat cultivated crops.

Diet in the zoo: yams, sweet potatoes, carrots, turnips alfalfa and grass hay, herbivore pellet, and mixed greens.

Description:

Adults: 48 to 110 lbs (males 77 – 88 lbs.; females 48.5 – 79 lbs.). Young: estimate 9 oz. at birth; average around 5.5 to 8 lbs. at 5 – 6 weeks. Body length 27 – 35.5 inches; shoulder height 11.8 to – 15.7 inches; height at top of back above shoulder 15.7 to 20 inches. Ears are short. Body is light to dark gray almost black.  Boars (adult males) have three pairs of fleshy “warts,” or bumps on their faces. Biologists believe these warts help protect them against the tusks of rival pigs during fights.  Adult females are called “sows.”

Reproduction:

Compared to other pig species these are very slow developing and growing. They reach sexual maturity at 3 years of age. Gestation is between 120 and 155 days. Boars develop a long breeding mane with 9.8 to 15.7 inches long whitish gray whiskers which are grown in the fall and shed, along with the mane, in February or March. The mane seems to be unique to Visayan warty pigs.  Females are capable of producing a litter every 8 to 12 months.  Sows build a large nest just prior to giving birth. Sows produce smaller litters than any other member of their genus having only 1 to 3 piglets. They are highly precocious and can be heard vocalizing at day 1 and sometimes come out of their nest area at day 1.  Piglets are born during the dry season, between the months of January and March in their native habitat.  Piglets under 6 months of age have longitudinal light stripes which gradually disappear.  Youngsters begin testing solid food at 1 week of age, and may be weaned by 6 months.

Ecology, Adaptations, Etc:

 When threatened, the pigs raise their mane to make themselves appear larger and more menacing, particularly with other males during the breeding season.

Comments:

Not much is known about these pigs, which were only recognized as a separate species in 1993. Even compared with other critically endangered species, the Visayan warty pig is at greater risk than most.  Visayan warty pigs are native to only six islands in the Philippines and have become extinct on four of them.  The remaining populations are widely fragmented and declining in the western mountains of Panay and in scattered fragments of surviving forest on Negros.  They are undergoing a drastic population decline, estimated to be more than 80% over a period of three generations (estimated to be about 21 years). Major threats to their existence include loss of habitat, hunting and interbreeding with domesticated pigs.

Habitat Loss.  About 95% of the pigs’ forest habitat has been cleared by logging companies as well as local farmers who cut down the forest by a slash-and-burn farming system known as “kaingin”, practiced by landless peasants and indigenous tribal groups moving into the Visayan Islands. The soil becomes unproductive in a few years and farmers move on to clear more land.   Because of their loss of habitat and natural food source, the pigs have increased their feedings of cultivated crops, particularly those along forest edges.  In addition, damage caused by the pigs’ crop raiding has resulted in negative attitudes toward them and a tendency to regard them as fair game for hunters.

Hunting occurs by both local farmers in rural communities and recreational hunters from larger cities. Both of these groups may sell any surplus meat which usually sells at least twice the price of domestic pork in local markets and specialty restaurants. Efforts to reduce or discourage hunting are often compromised by generally negative attitudes towards these animals (see Habitat Loss above).

Interbreeding.  This species is also threatened by genetic contamination through hybridization with free-ranging domestic and feral pigs.  Hybrids have been confirmed from almost all remaining population sites.

S. cebifrons is now fully protected by Philippine law However, enforcement of protection measures is generally poor in most areas, including many “protected areas,” owing to lack of resources and other factors such as widespread political unrest and the depressed state of the Philippine economy.

The Visayan Warty Pig Conservation Programme (VWPCP) was established in 1992 as collaboration of the Philippines Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Zoological Society of San Diego.  This group works to facilitate development and implementation of a wide-range of conservation-related activities such as field research, education awareness campaigns, and assistance in the establishment of new protected areas, diverse personnel training, and breeding programs.  Fortunately, these species do well in zoos, and several zoos in North America have Visayan Warty Pig Breeding programs known as Species Survival Plan (SSP).

Sus is Latin, meaning “a pig.”  The species name cebifrons is likely a combination of Cebu (the island on which the type specimen was collected), and the Latin word frons, meaning the forehead or brow, a reference to the long mane and forehead tuft.  Although now extinct on the island of Cebu, S. cebifrons is sometimes called the Cebu bearded pig as a result of the origin of the type specimen.