North Sulawesi Babirusa, Babyrousa celebensis

The North Sulawesi babiruse (Babyrousa celebensis) is an animal that resembles a pig. It is native to the northern areas of Sulawesi and to the Lembeh Islands found in Indonesia. It prefers a habitat near rivers or lakes, in tropical forests or canebrakes. Both its common and scientific name is derived from the local Malay term, which translates to “pig-deer”. It is thought that the Babyrousinae subfamily branched off the warthog family during the Miocene or late Oligocene period. Although it has been considered a subspecies of Babyrousa babyrussa, new studies have shown that it may be distinct from that species in that it differs physically and geographically.

The North Sulawesi babiruse can reach an average body length between 2.7 feet and 3.5 feet, with a weight of up to 220 pounds. It is typically grey in color, with little to no hair, with a long tail that bares a small tuft of fur. Males have strong tusks that curve up, while females and young individuals lack the well-developed upper canine tusks.

The North Sulawesi babiruse has three stomachs, so was once thought to be a ruminant. Because of this and its split hooves, it was not known whether the animal was kosher, or permissible to eat in Halakha or Jewish law. Because it is not a true ruminate, it is not kosher to eat.

In most areas where it occurs in captivity, inbreeding is common, but in the Bronx Zoo, breeding has been very successful. It has also been bred in South Lakes Wild Animal Park and Chester Zoo, among other areas. In the Copenhagen Zoo, hybrids were accidentally created when one North Sulawesi babiruse interbred with a domestic pig, resulting in variously colored pigs that had the tusks of the babiruse.  It is threatened by habitat loss and hunting, and appears on the IUCN Red List with a conservation status of “Vulnerable”.

Image Caption: North Sulawesi babirusa (Babyrousa celebensis). Credit: Masteraah/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 2.0)