Babirusa

Scientific Name: Babyrousa

Description

The term babi-rusa is Malaysian for pig-deer. While this rare animal’s torpedo-shaped body and longish legs allow it to move swiftly like a deer, it is in fact a pig. Its most distinctive and noticeable feature is its tusks. Like many other species of pig, the male babirusa has a pair of lower tusks, but it also has an extraordinary pair of curved tusks that poke through its upper snout and spiral towards its forehead. The tusks likely protect its face and eyes during fights with other males. Female babirusas also have tusks, but they are much smaller. According to native legend, babirusa tusks will hook over low-hanging branches to support the pig’s head when it rests.

Range

Native to a few islands in Indonesia, babirusas prefer to live in moist forests along rivers. Their habitat is rapidly disappearing as a result of growing river communities and logging.

Diet

While babirusas do not exhibit the rooting behavior typical of other members of the pig family, they will probe soft sand as well as wet, muddy places for food. They are omnivorous and consume a wide variety of leaves, roots, fruits, invertebrates and small vertebrates.

Behavior

Babirusas often travel in groups of up to eight. They communicate with each other using low grunts and moans. Babirusas are also good swimmers, and will even swim in the ocean to reach small islands.

Offspring

Babiruas reach maturity between one to two years of age. Unlike other pig species, the babirusa has only one to two babies in each litter. The young start eating solid foods by 10 days old, even though they continue to nurse for six to eight months.

Status

Currently listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), there are approximately 4,000 babiruas currently living in the wild. Shrinking habitat and illegal hunting have contributed to their decline.

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