Amongst the many animals one will see on a visit to Fota Wildlife Park on Fota lsland in east Cork is the Visayan warty pig. The Visayan warty pig is a critically endangered member of the Suidae family, a species of wild pig endemic to the Visayan Islands in the central Philippines. Originally found on all six of the Philippine islands, due to habitat loss, food shortages and being hunted mercilessly for their meat and skin, today they can only be found on two, the islands of Negros and Panay.
Visayan warty pigs like most wild pigs have medium-sized, barrel-shaped bodies with short legs. They have short necks, longish heads and small eyes with prominent snouts ending in a disk-like nose, and tusks which are upturned lower canines. The males generally are much larger in size and weight than females with larger tusks and warts.
The three small facial warts located around the snout and a distinctive white stripe that runs across the bridge of the nose and along the jaw are their most distinctive features. Sparse bristles cover their bodies, dark gray or black in females and young males which turn silvery or light-brown in adult males. Both sexes sport a tuft of dark reddish-brown or black hair on the crown of their heads. The breeding males that exist on PanayIsland annually grow this tuft into a long mane from forehead to rump.
Habits and Reproduction
They live in social groups called sounders usually consisting of a single adult male with sows and their assorted offspring. The piglets make an appearance during the dry season (the months of January and March) with an average litter of three to four. The adult family groups commonly number between three to six members, but may be over one dozen. Adult males may live solitary lives or form bachelor groups.
These wild pigs are not territorial, sounders calmly share feeding habitat and are highly social, incessantly communicating in squeaks, chirrups and grunts. They are nocturnal or crepuscular spending the day resting in hollows.
Females become sexually mature at two or three; with sows in captivity having conceived at twelve months old. Males acquire full adult boar characteristics at two years.
Habitat and diet
Originally found in forests and grasslands, wild warty pigs live in densely forested areas up to a mile above sea-level. Their diet traditionally consisted of roots, tubers, and fruits that could be found in the forest. However in modern times with approximately 95% of their natural forest habitat having been cleared by local farmers to plant crops the traditional food sources of the Visayan warty pig has become severely limited. This loss of habitat and loss of food supplies is a key factor that along with hunting has contributed significantly to the pig’s dwindling numbers.
Despite the struggle to survive they face in their native islands, there are many conservation schemes in place in zoos and wildlife parks around the world which will help keep this intelligent and overlooked species of wild pig alive for generations to come. Fota Island is the latest park who has welcomed the pigs, with a male and a female recently settled who it hopes will do their bit for worldwide conservation plans.
And while the male pig Santiago is happily settled his new female mate recently arrived from Holland is currently without a name and the popular cork based wildlife park is seeking name suggestions from its many fans.
On a side note here are some interesting facts about the Visayan Warty Pig
- The Philippine Islands contain more species of wild pig than any other country.
- On the islands Visayan warty pigs may be the sole seed disperser of the native forest plants, Lithocarpus and Dillenia.
- The pig family in general is strong, adaptable and intelligent and Visayans are noted for being playful and curious.
- Piglets of the large Sus and Potamochoerus genera have striped coloration for camouflage and can look like brown and tan watermelons on short legs
- While some pig species have one, two or six pairs of teats, Visayan warty pigs have three pairs. The number of teats influences litter size and survival rate among the piglets.
If you are visiting Fota Wildlife Park, stay in a nearby Cork hotel for a weekend to take full advantage of the park.