Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

Babirusas are largely diurnal, with a tendency to be more active in the morning when they feed. They are swift runners, weaving paths through the forest, and are also good swimmers, being able to swim to off-shore islands. They enjoy wallowing in mud baths like other pigs though other behaviours differ; The babirusa rarely use their snouts for rooting out food like other pigs, and they sharpen their lower tusks on tree trunks rather than on upper canines as other pigs do (2). They have an excellent sense of hearing and smell, which is invaluable in a thick forest environment, and have an omnivorous diet, feeding mainly on fruits, fungi, leaves, insect larvae, nuts and small mammals (2). Adult males are primarily solitary, while females form small groups of one or two females and their young (3). They have a slow reproductive rate compared to many other members of the pig family, with females bearing one or two piglets per litter in a nest of branches and leaves (7). The young are weaned at six to eight months and reach sexual maturity after one to two years; individuals are known to live up to 24 years (2).
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Description

This is one of the world's most bizarre looking mammals. Indeed, so bizarre is this animal's appearance that it has inspired some Indonesian people to make demonic masks based on them and even offer the animals themselves as gifts to visitors (5). Its name, babirusa, means 'pig-deer' and its peculiar appearance has lead local people to confer mythical properties to it (6). Babirusas are in fact members of the pig family, and the only living representatives of the subfamily Babyrousinae (7). Its common name comes from its pig-like rounded body, and the highly distinctive tusks of males. These tusks are in fact upper and lower canine teeth which grow vertically and curve e backwards towards the forehead; the upper tusks passing through the skin of the snout These dramatic features may grow to 30 cm in length, though they usually absent or much smaller in females (3). The babirusa's body is rounded, with a mostly hairless hide which ranges in colour from grey to brown, with lighter underparts (3). Adult mainland babirusas often have large folds of skin on the neck and belly, with thinly distributed yellow hairs (3); whereas the nominate form from Buru and Sula Islands is notable in having a short hairy coat – hence being referred to as the 'hairy' or 'golden' babirusa. The young are also uniformly brown in colour rather than striped like most other wild pig offspring (8).
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Distribution

Range

This genus has a very limited distribution, with the Sulawesi babirusa, Babyrousa celebensis, being endemic to the island of Sulawesi, the Togian Islands babirusa, Babyrousa togeanensis, being endemic to the neighbouring Togian Islands, and the hairy or golden babirusa, Babyrousa babyrussa, being found on Buru and Sula Islands of Taliabu and Mangole; all of which are in Indonesia (2) (4) (7) (9).
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Ecology

Habitat

The babirusa inhabits tropical rainforests and deciduous forests on the banks of rivers and lakes and seems to avoid shrub vegetation (6). Whereas in the past this intriguing animal has tended to occur in the low lying areas near coasts, recent surveys suggest that it is now increasingly confined to the interior on higher and less accessible ground (7).
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Conservation

Conservation Status

Status

The taxonomy of the babirusas is controversial, but advisors to the IUCN have settled on the division of the Babyrousa genus into three distinct species, rather than subspecies (4). The Togian Islands babirusa, Babyrousa togeanensis, is classified as Endangered (EN) and the Sulawesi babirusa, Babyrousa celebensis, and the hairy or golden babirusa, Babyrousa babyrussa, are classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1). All are listed on Appendix I of CITES (5).
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Threats

Babirusas are seriously threatened throughout their remaining range. The total wild population numbers are unknown, but unlikely to be more than a few thousand individuals, and dwindling rapidly as a result of continued illegal poaching and the loss of habitat from logging (7) (9). The loss and degradation of habitat from large-scale commercial logging not only deprives the babirusa of their moist forest habitat, but also increases their exposure to hunters (7). Although this species is fully protected by law, many animals are still caught and sold in local markets, especially in north Sulawesi where pig meat is considered a delicacy (3). Due to the babirusa's slow reproductive rate these threats unfortunately have a significant impact on the population (9).
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Management

Conservation

International trade of the babirusa is prohibited by their listing on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) (5). To date, approximately 12,000 km² of land on Sulawesi has been declared as wildlife protection areas and a further 20,000 km² await formal designation. While efforts are being made by the park services to educate local people and control animal poaching and logging, there is a chronic lack of financial resources in Indonesia as well as pressure from an expanding human population. Unfortunately the lack of up-to-date information on these species further restricts the effectiveness of any conservation measures at the local level (9) particularly most threatened forms from the smaller islands (7). Mainland babirusas have been bred in captivity very successfully, but most of the existing captive population is highly in-bred (7). Fortunately the Indonesian authorities and a proportion of the public consider the babirusa to be a species of particular interest and especially worthy of protection. It is frequently referred to in park staff training and conservation materials and even more recently, in children's books, which will hopefully raise the awareness needed for the protection of these extraordinary animals (9).
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Wikipedia

Babirusa

The babirusas, also called pig-deer, (from Indonesian bābī rūsa, lit. "deer-hog"[1]) are a genus, Babyrousa, in the pig family (Suidae) found in Wallacea, or specifically the Indonesian islands of Sulawesi, Togian, Sula and Buru.[2] All members of this genus were considered part of a single species until 2002, the babirusa, B. babyrussa, but following the split into several species, this scientific name is restricted to the Buru babirusa from Buru and Sula, whereas the best-known species, the north Sulawesi babirusa, is named B. celebensis.[3] If a babirusa does not grind its tusks (achievable through regular activity), they can eventually keep growing so as to penetrate the animal's own skull.[4]

Classification[edit]

The genus is monotypic within the subfamily Babyrousinae, or alternatively considered to form a tribe, Babyrousini, of the subfamily Suinae. To date, only one fossil skull has been found to suggest a larger ancestor.[5]

All members of the genus were considered part of a single species until recently, the babirusa or pig-deer, B. babyrussa, but following the split into several species, this scientific name is restricted to the Buru babirusa from Buru and the Sula Islands, whereas the best-known species, the north Sulawesi babirusa, is named B. celebensis.[3] The split, which uses the phylogenetic species concept, is based on differences in size, amount of hair on body and tail-tuft, and measurements of the skull and teeth.[3]

Species[edit]

B. babyrussa beruensis was described as an extinct, Pleistocene subspecies from southwestern Sulawesi before babirusas were split into multiple species.

Physical description[edit]

Skull of a male North Sulawesi babirusa (37 cm long)

Babirusa are notable for the long upper canines in the males. The upper canines of male babirusa emerge vertically from the alveolar process, penetrating though the skin and curving backward over the front of the face and towards the forehead.[6] The lower canines also grow upwards. The canines of the female are either reduced or absent.[6] The structure of the male’s canines vary by species. In the golden babirusa, the upper canines are short and slender with the alveolar rotated forward to alow the lower canines to cross the lateral view.[6] The Togian babirusa also has the same characteristics and the upper canines always converge. The North Sulawesi babirusa has long and thick upper canines with a vertically implanted alveolar. This caused the upper canines to emerge vertically and not cross with the lower canines.[7] Babirusa also vary by species in other characteristics. The golden babirusa has a long, thick pelage that is white, creamy gold, black or gold overall and black at the rump.[6] The pelage of the Togian babirusa is also long but not as that of the golden babirusa. The Togian babirusa has a tawny, brown or black pelage that is darker on the upper parts than in the lower parts.[6] The North Sulawesi babirusa has very short hair and appears bald. The female babirusa has only one pair of teats.[8]

Biology and ecology[edit]

Babirusa are native to Sulawesi, some of the Togian Islands, the Sula Islands and Buru.[6] In Sulawesi, they range from the northern peninsula to the south and south east provinces. Although babirusas are present on both Sulawesi and Sula, they are not found on the large islands between the two, the Banggai Archipelago. It has been hypothesized the unusual distribution is due to their being transported by humans as gifts bestowed by native royalty.[9] The preferred habitat of babirusa are tropical rainforests along river banks.[6] It appears that they have been confined to the higher grounds in the interior despite occurring in lowland areas near coasts in the past.[6] They are also active during the daytime. Like all pig species, babirusa have an omnivorous diet with an intestinal tract similar to that of the domestic pig.[10] The stomach diverticulum of a babirusa is enlarged which may indicate that it is a ruminant but evidence shows otherwise.[6] Because it does not have a rostral bone in the nose, a babirusa does not dig with its snout like other pigs do except in mud and swampy grounds. The diet of the babirusa includes leaves, roots, fruits and animal material. Apparently, the strong jaws of a babirusa are capable of easily cracking hard nuts.[6]

Male babirusa tend to live solitarily while adult females can be found in groups with young.[11] Groups of female and young babirusa may number up to 84 individuals, most of which contain no adult males. Males rarely travel in pairs or trios.[11] The tusks of the adult males are used in intraspecific fighting. The upper tusks are for defense while the lower tusks are offensive weapons.[12] Female babirusa cycle lengths between 28 and 42 days and estrus last 2–3 days.[6] The litter size for a babirusa is usually one or two piglets.[6]

Relationship to humans[edit]

In Indonesia, the striking appearance of the babirusa has inspired demonic masks, and the animal itself is sometimes used as a gift to present to visitors.[13]

The Balinese Hindu-era Court of Justice pavilion and the "floating pavilion" of Klungkung palace ruins are notable for painted babirusa raksasa (grotesques) on the ceilings.[9]

Conservation status[edit]

Babirusas are protected in Indonesia and poaching is illegal. However, hunting remains a significant threat to the babirusa. Additionally, commercial logging operations threaten the babirusa by habitat loss, and also reduce cover, making the babirusa more exposed to hunters.[13] All extant species of babirusa are listed as vulnerable or endangered by the IUCN.[14]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Skeat, Walter W. (1901). A Concise Etymological Dictionary of the English Language. p. 35. Retrieved 17 July 2012. 
  2. ^ Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M., eds. (2005). Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494. 
  3. ^ a b c Meijaard, E., & C. Groves. (2002). Proposal for taxonomic changes within the genus Babyrousa. Asian Wild Pig News 2 (1), 9-10.
  4. ^ http://scienceblogs.com/tetrapodzoology/2010/03/08/babirusa-impales-own-head/
  5. ^ Ian Metcalfe, Faunal and floral migrations and evolution in SE Asia-AustralasiaCRC Press, 2001. ISBN 978-90-5809-349-3. 416 pages: pp338.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l MacDonald, A. A. 1993. The Babirusa (Babyrousa babyrussa). In: W. L. R. Oliver (ed.), Pigs, Peccaries, and Hippos: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan, IUCN, Gland, Switzerland.
  7. ^ Groves, C. 1980. Notes on the systematics of Babyrousa (Artiodactyla, Suidae). Zoologische Mededelingen 55:29–46.
  8. ^ BBC (2010). Babirusa. Downloaded 18 April 2010.
  9. ^ a b Umberto Albarella, Keith Dobney, Anton Ervynck: 2007. Pigs and humans: 10,000 years of interaction Oxford University Press 2007. ISBN 978-0-19-920704-6. 454 pages: pp20.
  10. ^ Langer, P. (1988): The Mammalian Herbivore Stomach - Comparative Anatomy, Function and Evolution. Gustav Fischer, Stuttgart and New York: 136-161.
  11. ^ a b Patry, Maurice; Leus, Kristin; Macdonald, Alastair A (1995) "Group Structure and Behaviour of Babirusa (Babyrousa babyrussa) in Northern Sulawesi", Australian Journal of Zoology, 43:643-655.
  12. ^ J. MacKinnon, (1981) "The structure and function of the tusks of babirusa", Mammal Review, 11(1):37-40.
  13. ^ a b "Sulawesi babirusa (Babyrousa celebensis)". ARKive. Retrieved 17 July 2012. 
  14. ^ IUCN 2010. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.1. Downloaded 18 April 2010.
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