One of the world’s rarest pig species has been born at Chester Zoo.
The arrival of a Visayan warty piglet has given cause for celebration for keepers at the charity zoo, with as few as 200 now remaining in the wild.
The male newcomer arrived to mum Gwen (9) and dad Tre (10) on 16 November 2021 and now joins a family of five.
These forest-dwelling pigs are listed as critically endangered by the International Union of Conservation for Nature (IUCN).
The species has suffered a drastic population decline in the wild. Agricultural expansion and logging have devastated vast amounts of their native habitat in the Philippines, and they are also hunted for their meat and persecuted for raiding crops – making them one of the rarest wild pigs on the planet.
The latest addition to the breeding programme will be an ambassador for his relatives in the wild.
Mark Brayshaw, Curator of Mammals at Chester Zoo, said:
“It’s fantastic to see the birth of any animal, but when they’re critically endangered and fighting for survival in the wild, it makes it even more special. Baby piglets are incredibly energetic and playful, and so the whole group will certainly be kept very busy over the coming months!
“Visayan warty pigs aren’t just your average pig. During breeding season, males develop a long, protruding mane from their head, giving them a mohawk-like hairstyle. Both mum Gwen and dad Tre are named after punk rockers Gwen Stefani and Tre Cool as a result of this iconic look, and I’m sure it won’t be long until we’ve decided a suitable name to follow in that tradition.
“Every piglet is a vital addition to the breeding programme and will help champion the plight of this fascinating, charismatic species.”
Chester Zoo’s latest arrival is vitally important to the endangered species breeding programme which is looking to maintain a genetically viable population of Visayan warty pigs in zoos around Europe.
The Visayan warty pig was recently recognised as a species in its own right. Little is currently known about these animals in the wild and experts say that by working closely with them in the zoo, they can transfer knowledge to further support the animals in the wild.
Stuart Young, Regional Field Programme Manager for South East Asian Islands at Chester Zoo, explains:
“Working with Visayan warty pigs in the zoo gives us the opportunity to study these animals in a way we never would have been able to in the wild.
“However, the important knowledge gathered here at the zoo is then shared with our partners at the Talarak Foundation in Negros, the Philippines, and has helped with the reintroduction of 19 Visayan warty pigs back into the wild. The pigs were reintroduced to Bayawan Nature Reserve in Negros in July 2020, where the animals had been extinct for more than 10 years. We’re absolutely delighted to reveal that the population is now thriving and 10 piglets have been born since they were rehomed.
“Although pigs can sometimes be overlooked, and don’t gather the attention that other bigger mammals receive, they play a really important role in the ecosystem - which is why we must continue to prevent their extinction.”
Visayan warty pigs live in small social groups and communicate with squeaks, grunts and chirrups. Piglets take their mother’s milk for up to six months, moving on to a varied diet that includes roots, tubers and fruits.
Chester Zoo was the first zoo in the UK to care for Visayan warty pigs, a species that gets its name from three pairs of fleshy warts on the boar’s face.
The breeding centre in the Philippines, and the nature reserve where the pigs were released, have recently been hit by a deadly typhoon causing damage to fences and buildings. Chester Zoo is supporting the Talarak Foundation with repair costs, but extra funding is needed.