Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 97 – The Visayan Warty Pig

Visayan warty pig (Sus cebifrons)

“Wild animals never kill for sport.  Man is the only one to whom the torture and death of his fellow creatures is amusing in itself”
James A. Froude

Originally endemic to six of the Visayan Islands of the Philippines, the warty pig now only occupies two of them; Panay and Negros.  It is extinct on the other four islands.  The decline of the these wild pigs is almost entirely due to the activities of the local Warty pig by Stephanie DeYoung population.  They have been hunting, eating and wearing the Visayan warty pigs for a very long time; and, as if that were not enough, have managed to destroy ninety-five per cent of the animal’s habitat.  Retaliation attacks by farmers have also taken their toll on the population.  With only five per cent of their original territory left, the pigs are now persecuted for crop raiding, in their hunt for food on what was originally their own home ground.  Then, there are the local farmers who view the warty pigs as pests.  They trap them in pits and use snares.  In some areas explosives have been sunk into the ground, which have been activated by the rooting pigs.  In general, there seems to have been a ‘by any means’ policy, which has almost wiped this species out in the wild.  Not forgetting the poor old things are seen as objects of sport for ‘recreational hunting’ (who, in their infinite wisdom, coined that expression, is anyone’s guess!).  In all, the lot of the Visayan warty pig has not been a very happy one.

As far as pigs go, the warty pig is relatively small, although the males are almost four times bigger than the females.  At most, males reach a height of twenty-five inches at the shoulder, but can weigh up to one hundred and eighty pounds.

Close up Visayan warty pigThey have some fairly distinctive features, too.  As their name suggests, facial warts are one on them. Surprisingly though, they are not large protuberances, but they are tough. These are thought to help protect the pigs’ faces when fighting, as any combat between wild pigs involves the use of tusks; the tusks being large canines which extend from the mouth. Leathery skin and matted hair across the shoulders are also thought to help protect the animals.  The rest of their bodies are sparsely covered with bristles topped with reddish-brown to black hair on the crown.

Both male and female have a conspicuous white stripe which crosses the bridge of the nose (usually less apparent in females) which is another unique characteristic of the warty pigs.  No other island pigs have this marking.

Visayan warty pigs live in family herds, known as ‘sounders’, each containing an Warty pig by Stephanie DeYoungaverage of four to six individuals.  These sounders usually comprise a single adult male with females and youngsters of both sexes.  Although this number is typical, larger sounders of up to twelve or more can also be found.

When threatened, boars raise their manes, rather like canids raising their hackles, giving themselves the appearance of being larger and more intimidating than they actually are.  Though those tusks are quite scary on their own and perhaps best avoided.  Despite this, these animals are not known to be particularly aggressive.  In fact, these highly social creatures have been recorded as being friendly in captivity and, like most members of the pig family, they enjoy wallowing peacefully in mud.

The breeding season for Visayan warty pigs is January to March.  Boars display unusual courting  behaviour at this time and  the spiky hair around the neck grows into a long floppy, very impressive mane, which falls over the face and obscures the eyes.  This other stunning distinction usually wins the sows over instantly.  The mane is shed after the breeding season is over.

Three little Visayan pigs at Chester Zoo (2010)Following successful pairings there is gestation period of one hundred and eighteen days after which two to four piglets will be born.  They are extremely protective of their young and will display aggression if anything poses a threat to the little ones.  Females, who make nests in which to farrow, usually give birth overnight and are capable of producing a litter every eight to twelve months. The piglets will start on solids at the early age of one week but won’t be full weaned until they are six months old.

A final characteristic of note, which also enables identification of pure bred Visayan warty pigs, are the three mammary glands.  Other island pigs all have four.

Piglets are pale-brown at birth and have four dark stripes running from head to tail.  This colouration will slowly fade out over the next twelve months as the pervading hue of adulthood is reached.

Recognized as a separate species in 1993, Visayan warty pigs also play a vital role in seed dispersal of some of the more important species of plants within their range.

Natural Habitat
Nearly all (95%) of its natural lowland habitat has gone.  The species now occupies degraded habitats wherever there is dense cover available; now mostly over two thousand six hundred feet.
Philippines – The islands of Negros and Panay.
What they eat
Earthworms, roots, tubers and forest fruits.  Through necessity, they also eat agricultural crops.
Severe habitat loss due to logging and clearance for agriculture – notably slash-and-burn techniques.  The species is also heavily hunted by locals for food and skins, and by  non-local recreational hunters as a means of sport and meat.  Farmers see them as pests and kill them.  Domestic pigs have been responsible for transmitting disease to the Visayan warty pig and have also  caused  hybridisation in the wild populations.
Status: Critically Endangered
The Visayan warty pig (Sus cebifrons) is listed on the  IUCN Red List of Threatened Species  as Critically Endangered.  It is not afforded protection under CITES.  The species is, however, fully protected by Philippine law.  Sadly, due to lack of resources and other contributing factors, enforcement of the law has been very shaky.
There are various active conservation, captive breeding  and support programs including:
The Visayan Warty Pig Conservation Programme 
The Crocolandia Foundation
The Negros Forests and Ecological Foundation Inc.
The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland
The Visayan warty pig is resident in various zoos across America and Europe.

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