Did you know? This babirusa can be distinguished from the other two species by its conspicuous dense coat of hair, giving it the common name 'hairy babirusa'.
B. babyrussa occurs on two of the Sula Islands (Mangole and Taliabu) and on Buru in Indonesia. The species is reported to be extinct on Sulabesi (formerly Sanana) (Sol unpublished, 1986). Some workers seem to believe babirusas were introduced to these islands, though if this is true these same workers provide no indication of their likely place of origin. Unfortunately, the systematic relationships of babirusas from adjacent eastern and south-eastern parts of Sulawesi remain unknown, so it is also not possible to assess their presumed or potential close affinities to B. babyrussa.
The species was apparently not uncommon on the slopes of Gunung Kepala Mada, the highest mountain on Buru in 1997. The people of Buru differentiate babirusa from other suid species, though it is presently unclear whether any other suids occurring on Buru are of S. celebensis or feral S. scrofa origin; nor whether any such populations (assuming they exist?) are naturally occurring or introduced forms.
B. babyrussa is a relatively small species, with long, thick body hair and well developed tail tuft. The upper canines of males are short and slender and cross the lower canines in lateral view. The upper canines tend to diverge or be subparallel, but they may be weakly convergent. Based on teeth measurements, B. babyrussa is similar to B. bolabatuensis, a presumably extinct form described from sub-fossil remains retrieved from various sites in the south-western peninsula of Sulawesi.
Buru's natural vegetation is largely tropical lowland evergreen and semi-evergreen rain forest, with tropical montane rain forest occurring above 800 m asl; the only known exception to this pattern being a seemingly complex a patchwork of monsoon forest, gallery forest and savanna in the north and north-east section of the island, developed as a result of repeated anthropogenic burnings. No surveys have been done on the habitat use of babirusas on Buru Island, but the local Rana people report that babirusas are most often found in hilly areas and mountains, where they use rocky areas.
Local people on Buru report that babirusas primarily feed on leaves, roots and fruits in the forest, but never enter people's gardens to feed on crops, unlike the other pig species on Buru which causes considerable damage to crops. The species is also said to feed along the shoreline when the tide is out.
Movements, home range and social organisation
On Buru, babirusas are reported to be mostly solitary or may occasionally be encountered in small groups. When in a group they regularly emit a long and high pitched sound described as "suirii....suuuuuiiiriiii".
On Buru, B. babirussa is mostly seen during the morning and late afternoons, but rarely around midday.
Nothing is known about breeding behavior of this species, but is likely to be similar to other Babyrousa spp.
Status and conservation
The species is listed on The IUCN Red List as Endangered. During extensive survey efforts on Buru in 1995, no direct evidence of babirusa was found, although a pair of pig mandibles found inland from Fogi in logged forest at an altitude of 670 m, indicate that the species had been recently hunted. Village interviews about the species’ presence suggested that on Buru the species range had become fragmented by the 1990s, although locally the animals was still relatively common. No surveys have been conducted since. With half the people of Buru being Christian, hunting pressure on pigs is likely to be high. The Rana people of Buru frequently hunt babirusas with dogs and snares.
Although the northern portions of Buru island have been degraded by repeated burning and the coastal lowlands have been cleared, the remaining forest forms two large, contiguous blocks.
Text adapted from: Meijaard, E., J. P. d'Huart, and W. L. R. Oliver. 2011. Family Suidae (Pigs). Pages 248-291 in D. E. Wilson, and R. A. Mittermeier, editors. Handbook of the Mammals of the World. Vol 2. Hoofed Mammals. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.
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