SEATTLE ‒ Rare and endangered Visayan (vih-SIGH-uhn) warty pigs and warthogs will make their public appearance this weekend at Woodland Park Zoo, presented by U.S. Bank and The Seattle Times.
On opening weekend, May 5-6, free piggy banks will be given at the ZooStores to the first 500 kids (age 12 and under) each day. “Pigs, Warts and All” programs, such as keeper talks and special pig-themed programming for young kids, will be presented at the pigs’ exhibits and in Zoomazium.
The arrival of the new pig species marks the first time that wild pigs have joined the zoo’s extensive collection of animal ambassadors. Woodland Park Zoo is grateful to the following private supporters for bringing the warthogs and warty pigs to the zoo: Lily Pointe Family Foundation, True Family, an anonymous donor, Wild at Heart annual donors and zoo members.
The critically endangered Visayan warty pigs boast spiky head tufts that resemble the hairdos of punk rockers. The warty pigs’ exhibit is located in the award-winning Elephant Forest near the elephant pool, in a broadleaf tropical forest landscape that evokes the species’ fragile habitat in central Philippines.
Warthogs, the wild pigs of the African savanna, earned their name from the large facial warts on each side of their tusks and jumped to fame when the character warthog Pumbaa endeared itself to fans of Disney’s “The Lion King.” The warthogs’ exhibit will take visitors to the moist and arid savannas of East Africa and is a part of the 4.5-acre, award-winning African Savanna that offers sweeping views dotted with giraffe, hippos, patas monkeys and lions.
Like all wild pigs, warthogs and warty pigs live highly social lives in groups called sounders. A 1-year-old brother and sister from Zoo Atlanta make up the sounder of warthogs at Woodland Park Zoo. The sounder of Visayan warty pigs consists of a 9-year-old female and two 3-year-old sisters from Los Angeles Zoo.
“For many years, domestic pigs have been a crowd-pleaser at the zoo’s Family Farm, so we’re excited about introducing wild pigs, especially Visayan warty pigs, which are so rare in the wild and in zoos. This may be the only encounter visitors will ever have with this critically endangered pig,” said Martin Ramirez, a mammal curator at Woodland Park Zoo. Only 12 institutions accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) exhibit Visayan warty pigs.
Visayan pigs were endemic to six of the Visayan Islands in central Philippines; however, it is near extinction. Only two remaining Visayan islands, Negros and Panay, still have a wild warty pig population. The pigs have lost more than 95 percent of their forested range to logging and agriculture, are hunted for their meat and are killed by farmers as crop-raiding pests.
“While their status in the wild is fragile, hope is underway to help the population recover,” noted Ramirez. Woodland Park Zoo participates in the Species Survival Plan (SSP) for Visayan warty pigs. In the home range of warty pigs, conservation work includes the establishment of a breeding population in the Visayan Islands, establishing new conservation areas in the Philippines, and reintroducing warty pigs into established forest reserves in the Visayan Islands.
Warthogs live in grassland, savanna, and woodland in Sub-Saharan Africa, and are the only pig species adapted to grazing and savanna habitats. To root for their favorite foods, grasses and roots, they spend lots of meal time on their knees, often “walking” on their knees while grazing. Although there are no current major threats to warthog populations, estimated at around 250,000, the species is very susceptible to drought and hunting, which may result in localized extinctions.
The Visayan warty pigs and warthogs were sent to the zoo under a recommendation by the Species Survival Plan for both species. The zoo participates in 72 SSPs sponsored by AZA. Led by experts in husbandry, nutrition, veterinary care, behavior, conservation and genetics, AZA-accredited institutions manage each species as one population in North America to maximize genetic diversity, with the goal of ensuring the long-term survival of the population and the health of individual animals.
Woodland Park Zoo’s summer hours through September 30: 9:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. daily. Zoo admission through September 30: Adult (13-64) id="mce_marker"7.75; Child (3-12) id="mce_marker"1.50 Free for children 2 and under year round. Active and retired U.S. military and their families, seniors and people with physical disabilities receive a discount and zoo members receive free zoo admission year round.
For a Rainy Day Discount coupon, go to www.zoo.org/rainyday and check if it has been posted for the day. Discount coupons, when offered, are good for 50% off on regular admission to the zoo, limit four admissions per coupon. Coupons, if posted online, will appear no later than 4:00 p.m. the day before the coupon is valid. Discounts cannot be combined with other discounts or offers, and are good only for the day indicated on the coupon. If there isn’t a coupon, be sure to check back on another day.
For more information or to become a zoo member, visit www.zoo.org. Or call 206.548.2500 or 548.2599 (TTY).