The Visayan warty pig (Sus cebifrons) or baboy talunon, as we locally call it, is considered the most critically endangered species of wild pigs in the world. The Visayan warty pigs are endemic to the six islands in the Visayas but are already extinct in four islands. They can only be found now in their natural habitat in small population in the remaining forests of Negros and Panay islands.
There are two subspecies of Visayan Warty Pig based on islands of origin. The Cebu Warty pig (Sus cebifrons cebifron) from Cebu which is believed to be already extinct and the Negros Warty Pig (Sus cebifrons negrinus) which is from Negros. The Visayan Warty Pig in Panay island is believed to be third sub-specie, however the required studies have not yet been conducted to confirm this. Today, Visayan Warty Pig is used to refer to the species found in Negros and Panay.
The Visayan warty pigs are dark gray to black in color. They are usually small compared to domestic pigs with the males bigger than the females sometimes up to four-fold.
A distinct characteristic of the species is the growth of a tuft of hair on the crown of the head of the boar during mating season, often covering the face and obscuring the eyes. A rather handsome feature which makes the boar look like it has a Mohawk haircut which also attracts the female pig. The male Visayan warty pigs also possess large canines which protrude from the mouth as tusks. The species has small facial warts, thus the name. These warts are part of the warty pigs’ defense when fighting occurs.
Another distinguishing feature of the Visayan warty pig is the whitish stripe that crosses the bridge of the nose and follows the jaw line. This mark is not found in other wild pig species.
Young Visayan warty pigs are also marked with white stripes that run along their back. They lose these markings when they become adults.
Status and Conservation Efforts
The Visayan warty pig has been listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature since it is now considered extinct in 95% of its natural habitat. Their number continues to dwindle due to loss of their natural habitat and hunting.
Forests in Negros have been cleared for agricultural purposes thus destroying the natural habitat of the warty pug. The Visayan warty pigs are omnivorous therefore their diet is a mix of fruits, roots, tubers and vegetables. Sometimes they forage on cultivated crops thus they are hunted by farmers as pests.
Where there are humans, there are domestic animals. Contamination due to hybridization with free-range domestic pigs has also been reported, further reducing the number of the species in the wild.
Fortunately, there are already efforts to save the Visayan warty pig. There are currently breeding centers established in Panay and Negros in order to increase their number and to hopefully reintroduce them in their natural habitat. Zoos in UK, Europe and the United States have also established captive breeding programs to help the conservation efforts.
In Negros Occidental, the Negros Forests and Ecological Foundation, Inc. has successfully bred the Visayan warty pig in captivity. Last December 2009, four piglets were born at the NFEFI Biodiversity Conservation Center. This might be a small step in increasing the number of the Visayan warty pigs but a big leap in saving the species from extinction.