The baby babirusa, named Matano by zookeepers, was born to mum Majene following a 161-day pregnancy.
Babirusa are native to the Indonesian island of Sulawesi where their numbers are in serious decline due to habitat loss through logging and hunting for their meat.
Chester Zoo is one of only a handful of zoos in the whole of Europe which has successfully bred the distinctive animals and the arrival of Matano is therefore being heralded as important for the future of the species.
Curator of mammals, Tim Rowlands, said:
Babirusa pigs are highly threatened. They’re one of the rarest pig species on the planet and so our new little arrival is a significant addition to the world’s population.
Years of planning and preparation have gone into us being able to successfully breed babirusa here. Matano is important for the future of the species and so we’re thrilled to bits with her.
We hope that, one day, Matano will grow up to become a vital part of the international breeding programme which is working to safeguard the species by ensuring there’s a healthy, viable back-up population in the event that they disappear from the wild.
Matano was born in early December and, in the weeks and months since, keepers have kept a watchful eye on her and mum in a special behind-the-scenes area.
Now, however, the proud mum and playful youngster are ready to make their first public appearances.
Mr Rowlands added:
Babirusa are a sensitive species and we needed to give mum and baby plenty of quiet time to bond. Majene is a great, experienced mother – very protective and extremely watchful over her piglet. Little Matano doesn’t leave her side.
Some of the zoo’s five babirusa will move to a brand new exhibit when Islands, the biggest and most ambitious expansion project in UK zoo history, opens in June.
Islands will recreate habitats in the Philippines, Bali, Sulawesi, Papua, Sumba and Sumatra and see visitors set off on their own conservation expedition.
- Babirusa piglet Matano was born on 2/12/2014, following a 161 day pregnancy for her mum, Majene
- Dad is called Sausu
- Chester Zoo is one of only a handful of zoos in the whole of Europe which has successfully bred the distinctive animals
- The species is endemic to the Sulawesi rainforests of Indonesia
- Babirusa are highly threatened and one of the rarest pig species on the planet
- They are classed by conservationists as vulnerable to extinction in the wild
- In the wild, the species has seen numbers plummet largely because of habitat loss through logging and hunting for their meat
- They are members of the pig family but in Indonesia the name babirusa means pig deer after their unusual appearance, especially the males with their big curling tusks
- Babirusa feed on fruit, seeds, nuts, insects and fungi
- In June 2015, the zoo’s babirusa will move to a brand new exhibit when Islands, the biggest development in UK zoo history, opens. Islands will recreate habitats from Panay, Papua, Bali, Sumatra, Sumba and Sulawesi and showcase species such Sumatran orangutans, cassowary, Sumatran tigers and Sunda gharial crocodiles, as well as babirusa. Unlike anything else in the UK, it will show animals in an even more naturalistic setting than ever before, which the zoo hopes will see visitors make more of an emotional connection with them. If people care about a species they’re more likely to help save them
- Website: www.chesterzoo.org/islands