Chester Zoo teams and our partners in Indonesia acted on a social media discovery last month to save two young, endangered piglets.
As its name suggests, the Javan warty pig (Sus verrucosus) can be found on the Indonesian island of Java. Java, however, is one of the most densely human populated islands on the planet. Despite accounting for only 7% of Indonesia’s land area, 67% of its population lives here
The effect of this population expansion over the decades has been a 90% loss of Java’s natural vegetation, with remaining primary forests mostly restricted to the island’s higher elevations. What little lowland forest remains is fragmented and disappearing, and it is this habitat that the Javan warty pig calls home.
Additionally, the species is frequently poached from the wild simply for sport or to be used in pig-dog fights, and faces the threat of extinction by hybridisation, due to sharing the island with the European wild boar (Sus scrofa).
Classified as Endangered on the IUCN Red List, but not nationally protected in Indonesia, Chester Zoo is working with the Cikananga Conservation Breeding Centre (CCBC) to prevent the extinction of this declining species.
Grabbing every opportunity to enact conservation can be essential to succeed in this mission – no matter how unusual. Last month, Yudi Irawan, Field Project Manager on the Chester-zoo led Javan Species Recovery Programme (JaSpeR) caught sight of two Javan warty piglets advertised for sale on the social media website, Facebook.
Yudi explains how he took action:
“On May 15th 2019, I saw a post on Facebook that someone is selling two piglets. I identified from the photo that both are Javan warty piglets, and confirmed my suspicions with Johanna Rode-Margono, Field Programme Coordinator for South East Asia at Chester Zoo.
“It is crucial that we rescue Javan warty pigs at any opportunity. Usually, when they are obtained from the wild by humans they are used to train a dog for hunting, or to be used in pig-dog fights. Piglets in particular are used to train puppies that will grow to hunt adult pigs in the forest.
“JaSpeR and CCBC staff held urgent discussions, and we agreed to rescue the piglets with the intention for them to join the pioneering breeding programme at Cikananga. After obtaining the piglets from the farmer, I journeyed over 12 hours alongside fellow Field Project Manager, Edwar Josen, to the conservation centre. An exhausting journey, but we are all happy to save such an important species.”
The Cikananga Conservation Breeding Centre has the goal of breeding endemic Indonesian species that are threatened with extinction. With Chester Zoo support, the organisation is creating satellite populations with the long-term goal of releasing individuals back into available safe habitats in their geographic range.
On arrival at CCBC, the piglets passed into the care of the Lead Pig Keeper, Pak Aos, and his team.
“We are very grateful to the JaSpeR team who put in a great deal of time and effort to ensure the safe arrival of pigs at Cikananga, saving them from what was likely a very sad existence and contributing greatly to the conservation of this amazing species.
“Once the piglets were received, we conducted health checks on each with our vet team, assessing their general condition and administering vitamins and anti-parasite treatments. This was done swiftly to avoid stressing the piglets after their long journey
“They have since been released into a quiet corner of the centre where they are currently under quarantine conditions to prevent any risk of disease introduction to our site.
“We hope that these piglets will join our breeding programme in time, but first they must be genetically examined to ensure that they are pure Javan warty pigs. Hybridisation with European wild boar is very difficult to identify and is one of the greatest threats to the endangered native species. From their physiology, European wild boar and Javan warty pigs are close to identical.
“They have great potential for our programmes as they have DNA that is not currently represented in our breeding programme population!”
The CCBC works very closely with a Javan warty pig reintroduction project in Baluran National Park in East Java. We’re hopeful that in the coming years that these piglets will join the breeding programme, and their descendants will be suitable candidates for release into the wild!
You can help us stop the illegal wildlife trade
Illegal wildlife trade is the greatest direct threat to the future of many of the world’s most iconic and endangered species. If you spot animals or animal items for sale that could be part of the illegal wildlife trade, then you can make a real difference to animals by reporting what you find.