Indonesia: Sulawesi, the Togian and Sula islands, and Buru island in the Moluccas (the latter two apparently by introduction)
Biogeographic Regions: oriental (Native )
Length: Head and body, 85-110 cm; tail, 20-32 cm.
Height: 65-80 cm at shoulder
The babirusa has a rounded body, somewhat pointed snout, and relatively long, thin legs. Males are larger than females. Depending on the subspecies, the skin may be rough and brownish gray with only a few dark bristles (B. b. celebensis), brown to black coat, markedly lighter on the underside (B. b. togeanensis), or long, thick golden cream-colored and/or black coat (B. b. babyrussa). The skin often has large folds or wrinkles. (Parker, 1990)
The babirusa's most dramatic physical features are its tusks. The upper canines of males never enter the mouth cavity but rather grow upward, pierce through the top of the snout and curve backward toward the forehead. They may reach a length of 30 cm. In females, the upper canines are small or absent. These tusks are brittle and loose in their sockets, apparently useless as offensive weapons, but they may help to shield the face while the daggerlike lower tusks are used in fighting. There is also evidence that on some islands these tusks are used to interlock and hold an opponent's tusks, and on other islands they are used for butting.
Range mass: 43 to 100 kg.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry
Sexual Dimorphism: ornamentation
Habitat and Ecology
Specific data are lacking for B. babyrussa, but in northern Sulawesi groups or troops of up to 13 individuals of B. celebensis have been observed in rainforest, especially around water, communal wallowing areas and salt licks (Patry et al., 1995; Clayton, 1996). Older adult males were often observed singly and most groups were composed of five or fewer animals, the majority of which were females with young animals.
The babirusa prefers moist forests and canebrakes near the shores of rivers and lakes. They avoid dense shrub vegetation.
Terrestrial Biomes: forest ; rainforest
The babirusa, unlike most other suids, does not appear to use its snout to root for food. It is also a more specialized feeder than most suids, primarily eating foliage, fallen fruit, and fungi.
Life History and Behavior
Status: captivity: 24.0 years.
Status: wild: 24.0 years.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
The babirusa mating system has been described as a "roving dominance hierarchy" among the males in an area. (Macdonald, 1984) Males use their tusks to fight with other males for the right to mate with several females. (Houston, 1997) Babirusa have a gestation period of 150-157 days, and 1 or 2 young per pregnancy is typical (unusually few for suids). Young weigh between 380 and 1050 g. at birth. Young are usually born in the early months of the year. They are more precocial than the young of other suids, beginning to eat solid food 3-10 days after birth; weaned at 6-8 months. Young attain sexual maturity at 1-2 years. In captivity, babirusa have lived up to 24 years.
Average birth mass: 715 g.
Average gestation period: 153 days.
Average number of offspring: 1.3.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
Sex: male: 548 days.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
Sex: female: 548 days.
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
- 1996Vulnerable(Baillie and Groombridge 1996)
- 1994Vulnerable(Groombridge 1994)
- 1990Vulnerable(IUCN 1990)
- 1988Vulnerable(IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1988)
- 1986Vulnerable(IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1986)
Date Listed: 06/14/1976
Lead Region: Foreign (Region 10)
Where Listed: Entire
Population location: Entire
Listing status: E
For most current information and documents related to the conservation status and management of Babyrousa babyrussa , see its USFWS Species Profile
Excessive hunting and habitat loss have caused a substantial decline in babirusa populations, despite longstanding legal protections. The wild population is estimated at about 4000 individuals, spread across several islands. In addition to humans, they are preyed upon by feral and domestic dogs.
The species has always been rare in zoos, but seems to breed readily in captivity. The largest breeding group is in the zoo in Surabaya, Indonesia. The Stuttgart Zoo coordinates a European Maintenance Breeding Program for the babirusa.
US Federal List: endangered
CITES: appendix i
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: vulnerable
There are two protected areas in the remaining Buru rainforest, Gunung Kelpat Muda (1380 kmÂ²) and Waeapo (50 kmÂ²), and one on Taliabu, Pulau Taliabu (700 kmÂ²) (Wikramanayake et al., 2001). Gunung Kelpat Muda, to the west-central part of the island. has the additional advantage of continuing to be an animal sanctuary according to local custom (Macdonald unpublished, 2008).
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Economic Importance for Humans: Positive
Indonesian natives hunt the babirusa for food. They are also frequently captured young and tamed.
Babirusa are of interest to medical researchers, because the babirusa tusk is the only permanent natural percutaneus (passing through the skin, such as by puncture) structure. When percutaneus devices such as catheters are implanted in humans, the epidermis generally does not adhere well to the device, posing a risk of infection at the site. Researchers hope to learn how to avoid this complication by studying the babirusa, where the problem does not occur. (Knabe, 1999)
The Buru babirusa (Babyrousa babyrussa), also known as the Moluccan babirusa, golden babirusa or hairy babirusa, is a wild pig-like animal native to the island of Buru and the two Sula Islands of Mangole and Taliabu, all belonging to Indonesia. Traditionally, this relatively small species included the other babirusas as subspecies, but it has been recommended treating them as separate species based on differences in their morphology. As also suggested by its alternative common names, the Buru Babirusa has relatively long thick, gold-brown body-hair – a feature not shared by the other extant babirusas.
In absence of detailed data on B. babyrussa, it is generally assumed that its habitat and ecology are similar to that of B. celebensis (north Sulawesi babirusa). Furthermore, as all babirusas were considered conspecific under the scientific name B. babyrussa until 2001, data collected before that is consistently listed under the name B. babyrussa, though the vast majority actually refers to B. celebensis (by far the best known species of babirusa). Babyrusas tend to occupy tropical rainforests, river banks and various natural ponds rich in water plants. They are omnivorous and feed on various leaves, roots, fruits, invertebrates and small vertebrates. Their jaws and teeth are strong enough to crack any kind of nuts. Babirusas lack the rostral bone in their nose, which is a tool used by other wild pigs for digging. Therefore, they prefer feeding on roots in soft muddy or sandy soils. Cannibalism was reported among babirusas, feeding on the young of their own or other mammals. North Sulawesi babirusas form groups with up to a dozen of individuals, especially when raising the young. Older males might live individually.
The north Sulawesi babirusa reach sexual maturity when they are 5–10 months old. Their estrous cycle is 28–42 days, and the gestation period lasts 150–157 days. The females have two rows of tits and thus bring 1–2 piglets weighing 380–1050 grams and measuring 15–20 cm, and milk them until the age of 6–8 months. The lifespan is about 24 years.
The restricted habitat of the Buru babirusa, with the total area within 20,000 km², and its gradual loss due to logging persuaded the International Union for Conservation of Nature to declare the species as vulnerable. Hunting by the local population is another cause of concern. Whereas it is unpopular among Muslim communities for religious reasons, it is widely hunted by the indigenous people of Buru, which are predominantly Christian. The meat of Buru babirusa has low fat (only 1.27% compared to 5–15% for domestic pigs) and is regarded as a delicacy. It is also preferred by the locals to the meat of other wild pigs or deer in terms of texture and flavor. The establishment of two protected areas on Buru, Gunung Kapalat Mada (1,380 km²) and Waeapo (50 km²), partly aim at preserving the habitat of the Buru babirusa. This species also enjoys full protection under Indonesian law since 1931.
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