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Sus barbatus (Müller, 1838) – The Bearded Pig
by Mr. Muhammad Syaridzwan Baharudin & Mr. Mohammad Shahfiz Azman
Newsletter
Sus barbatus (Müller, 1838) – The Bearded Pig
by Mr. Muhammad Syaridzwan Baharudin & Mr. Mohammad Shahfiz Azman

As its name suggests, the bearded pig (Sus barbatus) possesses a unique characteristic different from other species in the Suidae family. There is a 'beard' of bristles along its upper jaws (Meijaard, 2000). This species is classified under Order Cetartiodactyla, comprised of cloven-hoofed animals, and the subspecies Sus barbatus oi is native to Peninsular Malaysia, while Sus barbatus barbatus is endemic to Borneo. Subspecies is the subgroups within a species that have different traits. It appears that the difference between the subspecies falls on their coloration, as S. barbatus barbatus has various shades of brown (Luskin & Ke, 2017).

This species' distinctive characteristic, which is its beard grows longer with age and present in both sexes, but it is mainly pronounced on males. This beard comprised coarse, wavy grey bristles that protrude from their mandibles and across the snout, potentially obscuring their vision with whiskers up to 15 cm long. The tusks are present in both sexes and can grow up to 25 cm long (Luskin & Ke, 2017).

Compared to all extant pigs, the bearded pig has the slimmest torso and longest head, with distinguished two warts on the face. It has a dark brown-gray coat, small eyes, and fairly long ears, which corresponds to its well-developed sense of hearing. The ends of its snout have a mobile disk-shaped structure that bears the nostrils. Their lower canine teeth formed a set of tusks on their nose (Knibbe, 2000).

The bearded pig can be found in the Malay Peninsula, Riau Archipelago, Sulu Archipelago, Sumatra, Bangka, Borneo, Karimata Island, Balabac, and Palawan, along with Calamian islands in the western Phillippines. It inhabits tropical rainforests of all elevations, mangrove thickets, and secondary forests, as well as in disturbed or logged forests (Meijaard & Sheil, 2008; Knibbe, 2000).

Knibbe (2000) states that they use their long snout to dig in the ground for earthworms and roots. It feeds on a large variety of fruits, seeds, soil invertebrates, and grubs. Another one of their feeding behaviour is they follow monkeys and primates' troops to obtain the fallen fruit.

This large mammal species is famous for its migration behaviour, in which they track the mast-fruiting events across Borneo's forests. Dove (1993) stated that the local forests' difference to prolifically fruit trigger the bearded pigs to migrate at a large distance to gain benefits of the temporary abundance of food, as masting in South East Asia usually occurs every 3-7 years. Bearded pigs seek the nuts of the Dipterocarpaceae tree, and they move in huge herds (sometimes more than 1000 individuals), covering hundreds of kilometres. This resource also provides to female and allow them to raise several litters within a year (Leighton & Leighton, 1983; Caldecott & Caldecott, 1985). However, due to habitat loss and fragmentation, this migration can hardly be observed or may have disappeared (Mackinnon et al., 1996). Plus, this species is usually hunted as a food source. “Sinalau bakas” is a smoked bearded pig, a delicacy that is usually sold along the main roads in some parts of Sabah.

International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List has listed the S. barbatus as Vulnerable (VU). This species is threatened by the habitat loss caused by the rapid deforestation and forest fragmentation throughout their range. Thus, better enforcement in forest protection and conservation will reduce further forest fragmentation, resulting in an increasing rate of declining population trend of this species.

References

  1. Bennett, E.L. & Gumal, M.T. (2001). The interrelationships of commercial logging, hunting and wildlife in Sarawak, and recommendations for forest management. In Fimbel, R.A., Grajal, A. & Robinson, J.G. (Eds.), The cutting edge: conserving wildlife in logged tropical forest. Columbia Press, New York. pp. 359-374.
  2. Caldecott, J. & Caldecott, S. (1985). A horde of pork. New Scientist . 1469: pp. 32-55
  3. Dove, M. (1993). The responses of Dayak and bearded pig to mast-fruiting in Kalimantan: An analysis of nature-culture analogies. East-West Center. pp. 13-123.
  4. Knibbe, N. (2000). "Sus barbatus", Animal Diversity Web. Retrieved February 24, 2021, from https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Sus_barbatus/
  5. Leighton, M. & Leighton, D.R. (1983). Vertebrate responses to fruiting seasonality within a Bornean rainforest. In Sutton, S.L., Whitmore, T.C. & Chadwick, A.C. (Eds.), Tropical Rain Forest: Ecology and Management. Blackwell Scientific, Oxford. pp. 181-196.
  6. Lucchini, V., Meijaard, E., Diong, C.H., Groves, C.P. & Randi, E. (2005). New phylogenetic perspectives among species of South-east Asian wild pig (Sus sp.) based on mtDNA sequences and morphometric data. Journal of Zoology 266 (1): pp. 25-35
  7. Luskin, M.S. & Ke, A. (2017). Bearded pig Sus barbatus (Müller, 1838). In Melletti, M. & Meijaard, E. (Eds.), Ecology, Conservation and Management of Wild Pigs and Peccaries. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, UK. pp. 175-192.
  8. Luskin, M.S., Ke, A., Meijaard, E., Gumal, M.T. & Kawanishi, K. (2017). Sus barbatus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T41772A123793370. Retrieved February 24, 2021, from https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2017-3.RLTS.T41772A44141317.en
  9. MacKinnon, K., Hatta, G., Halim, H. & Mangalik, A. (1996). The Ecology of Kalimantan. Singapore: Periplus Editions.
  10. Meijaard, E. & Sheil, D (2008). The persistence and conservation of Borneo's mammals in lowland rain forests managed for timber: observations, overviews and opportunities. Ecological Research. 23 (1): pp. 21-34
  11. Meijaard, E. (2000). Bearded pig (Sus barbatus). Ecology, conservation status, and research methodology. WWF-Indonesia, CIFOR, and Ecosense Consultants, Indonesia. pp. 3.
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