Birth of endangered piglet prompts squeals of joy at zoo

June 28, 2016 - 1:12pm

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

A 3-week-old Visayan warty pig — a species considered among the most endangered in the world — prompted squeals of joy from Oregon Zoo visitors yesterday as he explored his outdoor habitat for the first time, frolicking alongside his mom, Marge.

Born June 9, the piglet has been nursing well and has even started eating some fruits and vegetables, according to senior keeper Julie Christie. 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," 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.

Following an urgent appeal from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, 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.