Pigs have an important role in many different cultures, religions all over the world. They have become synonymous with both negative and positives attributes. For example, in modern Europe pigs are known as a symbol of good luck, but there are religions where eating pork is sinful as pigs are considered unclean animals. Pigs are present in the Egyptian, ancient Greek, Celtic religions, Buddhism, and in Chinese astrology. Today, they are part of many tales, cartoons, movies, and you can find these animals in many zoo collections where it is religiously permissible to keep them. Like many other animals, some species have been on the edge of extinction, just like the protagonist of this article, the Visayan warty pig (Sus cebifrons negrinus). I will try to shortly introduce this amazing species in this article and give some advice on keeping them.
Status in the wild and in zoos
The one and only place where this pig species lives is the Philippines, where it is known or presumed to have occurred on all of the six main islands: Cebu (extinct: the last reports being in the '60s), Negros, Guimaras (extinct), Panay, Masbate and Ticao (extinct). There are currently two recognized subspecies:
- Sus c. cebifrons Heude, 1888 – Cebu Island, Philippines
- Sus c. negrinus Sandborn, 1952 – Negros Island, Philippines
Numbers on wild Visayan warty pigs are not available, but the species has lost 95% of its former range in recent times and is highly endangered. Its conservation status today in the IUCN Red List: Critically Endangered (CR).
Less than 50 different zoos hold the Visayan warty pig in North America and Europe, about 217 individuals (source: ZIMS, October, 2016).
Fortunately, there are many conservation projects that help this species. The main project is The Visayan Warty Pig Conservation Programme that was established in 1991 with the long-term aim of reintroducing „warties” into areas from which they have been lost. Two captive breeding and rescue centres have been established on Negros, one by Silliman University and another at the Negros Forests and Ecological Foundation.
The American Zoo and Aquarium Association and the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria have a breeding project with a studbook for the Visayan warty pigs.
This species lives in a family group of 3-12+ animals, usually with a single adult male, one or several adult females, and their offspring. There is a very strong social tie between the family members, their communication is primarily based on sounds and smells. The previous offspring help their mother in the upbringing of the new piglets. It is important to note that some literature propose the separation of the mother from the group before giving birth. It may be a good idea to provide a box for the female before farrowing.
As other pigs’, the Visayan warty pig’s gestation period is three months, three weeks and three days (118 days). The typical litter number is 2-4.
Feeding procedure, foraging
The typical diet in the wild: omnivorous, meaning different fruits, roots, leaves, earthworms and also agricultural crops. If it is possible, it is worth to feed them a diet as varied as possible in the zoo. Is it difficult to give an exact amount, but it is important to weigh the pigs, as they can put on or lose some weight suddenly.
Here is an example for a daily feeding protocol. In the morning, scatter some seeds around the indoor or outdoor enclosure. At noon, give a ground or grated mix containing different kinds of boiled and raw vegetables (carrots, celery, beets, turnips, etc.), some fruit (apples, pears, etc.), boiled rice and some animal protein (eggs, cheese, dog food, shrimp, etc.). Mix this with cornmeal, mixed semolina, bran and some vitamins and minerals. If necessary, add water. In the evening, feed raw vegetables and fruit (50%-50%), some eggs, cheese, cooked meat (chicken), fish or seafood. They especially like pumpkin and melon. If there is no training (see below) in the afternoon, scatter some nuts, hazelnuts around their habitat. Provide them with twigs, leaves or branches all day. If the pigs do not eat these, they can still use it for their sleeping nest.
Training with pigs
First of all, training with pigs is absolutely easy and fun, because they are one of the most intelligent and playful species. Like with many other animals, you can use target training and a clicker. Experience has shown that the fastest to learn are some of the younger ones, as young as 3 months of age, they may be included in the training. As, for example, in the case of seals, training can help the work of veterinarians and keepers and it is fun for the pigs too. And, last but not least, it can be a spectacular program for the visitors as a type of "animal show".
It is worth using food specially reserved for training as a reward, such as hazelnuts or nuts. Based on the above feeding protocol, the best suited time for training is in the afternoon between the two feeding times for a higher level of motivation.
Some interesting facts
- A Visayan warty pig can survive from 10 to 15 years in the wild
- Some argue that the „hair” of males looks like the hairstyle of Elvis Presley
- This species has many other official names: Cebu (bearded) pig, Baboy ilahas, Baboy do mor, Baboy talunon, Manggalisak banban, Biggal, Bakatin
- Males are up to three times larger than females and there is significant sexual dimorphism
- National Pig Day is an event held annually on March 1 in the United States to celebrate pigs