Photo by Jackie Schweigerdt, Mammal Keeper
Monday, March 1 is National Pig Day! Here at Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens we have three species of wild pigs in the family Suidae that will be celebrated.
The first pigs you might see at our Zoo are the warthogs. Warthogs get their name from the thick protective pads (or “warts”) that appear on both sides of their head. These are used to defend their faces when they’re in rival pig fights. Warthogs have two upper tusks and two lower tusks. The upper tusks form a semicircle and can be seen on each side of their snout. Their lower tusks are worn to a sharp cutting edge to help protect themselves from predators. When they run, they will carry their tails upright and the tuft of bristles at the end will wave like a flag. You may see our warthogs kneel down on their knee pads to eat treats, their meals, and slurp up bugs.
Your browser doesn't support video.
Please download the file: video/mp4
The Visayan warty pigs can be found in the Asia loop at our Zoo. The male warty pigs are known for their mohawk-like hair that appears during mating season. Warty pigs also have three pairs of “warts” on their faces like the warthogs. They once inhabited the rainforests of six West Visayas islands in the Philippines, but now they’re listed as critically endangered and only exist on two of those islands. Because this species can interbreed with domestic pigs, many warty pig genetics have been lost.
Across from the warty pigs are the babirusa, which share an enclosure with our Zoo’s Asian small-clawed otters. These pigs live in large herds in the forests of the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. The babirusas are known for their looping tusks that appear on the pig’s snout. These tusks are only visible on males and are actually the two upper canines that grow through the snout’s skin and curve back toward the forehead. The babirusa is the only mammal with vertically growing canine teeth as seen by their lower canines. The babirusa are currently listed as vulnerable in the wild due to their herds being isolated from each other. This has made it difficult to pass on different genetics between different herds. Extended periods of isolation can be detrimental to the long-term survival of this species.
Pigs are very social animals and often engage with guests, so we hope to see you during the month of March to celebrate these wild pigs!