Hop on pop: 5-week-old warty pig meets dad for first time

July 14, 2016 - 2:49pm

Visayan warty piglet is ambassador for one of world's most endangered species

It was a big day for the Oregon Zoo's rare Visayan warty piglet, which keepers have named Milagro. Milo, as he is known for short, turned 5 weeks old today and had his first play date with dad, Sam.

The young Visayan warty pig — a species considered among the most endangered in the world — met Sam for the first time around 10 a.m. and wasn't a bit shy, sniffing his way around the habitat and enjoying a game of "hop on pop."

"Within about 15 minutes of meeting each other, Sam lay down and the kid jumped right up on his back," keeper Michelle Schireman said. "He's just full of energy. He gets the zoomies all the time."

Keepers say Milagro, born June 9 to Marge, has been nursing well, eating fruits and vegetables, and even napping on his own. His name — Spanish for "miracle" — is commonly used in the Philippines to express surprise or astonishment.

While adult warty pigs have coarse gray hair, piglets are born with brown and yellow stripes, a camouflage pattern that fades after about a year.

"He looks like a little watermelon with legs," senior keeper Julie Christie said. "There are probably fewer than 300 of these animals left in the entire world, so each birth is really something to celebrate."

Visitors can see the new arrival most days between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. at the zoo's Island Pigs of Asia habitat. 

Christie hopes the curious and active piglet will be a charismatic ambassador for his species — educating visitors about the importance of saving these rare pigs and their ever-shrinking habitat.

Considered critically endangered, Visayan warty pigs are native to just six islands of the Philippines and have gone extinct on four of them. Slash-and-burn farming has destroyed their habitat at an alarming rate, leaving only small pockets of the species, which are isolated from each other and face dwindling food sources.

Ten years ago, the Oregon Zoo became the fourth zoo in the nation to establish a breeding group of Visayan warty pigs. Marge came to Portland from the Los Angeles Zoo in 2007, joining Samar and Maganda, who arrived from the San Diego Zoo in 2006. A typical breeding group consists of one male and several females.

Little is known about Visayan warty pigs, which develop spiky, Mohawk-like manes during mating season. They have only been recognized as a separate species since 1993 and are named for the three pairs of fleshy "warts," or bumps, on their faces.