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Exotic Pigs Make a Perfect Pair at Riverbanks

For Immediate Release: September 6, 2012

Zoo’s Newest Couple Now on Exhibit

[Columbia, SC] — Riverbanks Zooand Garden is now home to a female babirusa—a rare, tusked animal native of Indonesia and the second of its kind at the Zoo since the addition of a male pig named Bertello in February of 2011.

Wilma, a 2 ½ year old swine, came to Riverbanks in February from the St. Louis Zoo based on the breeding recommendations of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Babirusa Species Survival Plan.

"We are excited to finally have a suitable match for Bertello,” said John Davis, curator of mammals at Riverbanks Zoo and Garden. "Since her arrival at Riverbanks, keepers have been gradually introducing Wilma to her new home and after a six month adjustment period, she and Bertello are now ready to go on exhibit as a pair.”

Babirusa is a Maylasian term meaning deer-pig. A member of the pig family, this unusual, nearly hairless creature has thick, wrinkly skin and elongated legs that allow it to run swiftly like a deer. Males can be recognized by their long, protruding tusks, while female tusks are shorter and typically not visible.

Babirusas are known to be gifted swimmers. In the wild, these animals prefer to live in moist, tropical forests and along the shores of rivers and lakes. The species has always been rare, but is now considered vulnerable due to shrinking habitat and over-hunting.

At Riverbanks, Wilma and Bertello can be seen on exhibit daily adjacent to the African Bird Yard during normal Zoo hours.