- Camera traps have snapped the babirusa “deer-pig,” a type of tusked wild swine, on an island in Indonesia where they hadn’t been observed in more than a quarter of a century.
- Locals on Buru Island had previously reported seeing the animal there, but the new images are the first official confirmation of babirusa there since 1995.
- Officials are designing a conservation program for the Maluku or hairy babirusa (Babyrousa babyrussa) found on Buru and trying to determine its presence on two other islands.
- According to local lore, a babirusa will appear to guide a person lost in the forest to safety.
GORONTALO, Indonesia — Camera traps have confirmed the presence of babirusa on Indonesia’s Buru Island for the first time in 26 years, the country’s environment ministry announced earlier this month.
The animal, whose name means “pig-deer” in Indonesian, is endemic to the archipelago country, meaning it is found in the wild nowhere else in the world.
The study involved 10 camera traps, nine of which photographed babirusa in the Masbait Nature Reserve between April and June this year, the ministry said. The project was supported by a U.N. Development Programme international aid project designed to support the ministry’s conservation efforts, especially on the island of Sulawesi in eastern Indonesia.
While babirusa (Babyrousa spp.) are usually associated with Sulawesi, one of Indonesia’s biggest islands, the animals also inhabit several islands in Maluku province farther east.
The new images are the first official confirmation of babirusa in Buru since 1995, though locals had reported encountering the tusked creature in the island’s upland forests, according to the ministry. According to local lore, a babirusa will appear to guide a person lost in the forest to safety.
The Maluku provincial conservation agency, which operates under the environment ministry’s authority, made some effort to confirm the presence of babirusa in Buru from 2011 to 2013, but never succeeded. Then, in 2019, an agency team discovered the skull and bones of a babirusa, prompting interest in another attempt.
The agency will design a conservation program for babirusa in Buru and attempt to confirm its existence on the islands of Mangole and Taliabu, Danny H. Pattipeilohy, the head of the agency, said in a statement. The three islands make up the home of the Maluku or hairy babirusa (Babyrousa babyrussa), one of three species of the animal.
In Buru, “People who enter the forest every day often encounter babirusa,” Abdul Haris Mustari, a lecturer in the forestry department at Indonesia’s Bogor Institute of Agriculture (IPB), told Mongabay, adding that he encountered one himself, on Taliabu, in 2006.
This story was reported by Mongabay’s Indonesia team and first published here on our Indonesian site on July 26, 2021.
Banner: One of the Buru babirusa photographed by the Indonesian government’s camera traps between April and June.
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