North Sulawesi babirusa facts, pictures & information. The North Sulawesi babirusa looks like a cross between a pig and a deer. In fact, that’s exactly what its name means in Indonesian: babi meaning ‘pig’ and rusa meaning ‘deer’. The animal’s deer-like ‘horns’ aren’t horns at all; they’re elongated teeth that have grown straight though the babirusa’s nose.
North Sulawesi Babirusa Facts At A Glance
- Other Name(s): Sulawesi babirusa
- Scientific name: Babyrousa celebensis
- Type of Animal: Mammal
- Animal Family: Suidae
- Where Found: Sulawesi, Indonesia
- Head-Body Length: 85 to 110 cm (33 to 43 in)
- Weight: 43 to 100 kg (95 to 220 lb.)
- Conservation Status: Vulnerable
- Interesting Babirusa Fact: The name babirusa means ‘pig-deer’ in the local Malay language.
You can see excellent footage of these strange-looking creatures in the video below:
Meet The North Sulawesi Babirusa: Introduction
The North Sulawesi babirusa is a pig-like animal in the family Suidae (the family that contains all pigs, boars and warthogs). It is the best-known of the 4 babirusa species. (The four species were considered to be subspecies of a single species until 2002).
What Does The Northern Sulawesi Babirusa Look Like?
The North Sulawesi babirusa is the largest and least hairy of the babirusas. Its body is barrel-shaped, the snout is pointed. The limbs are long and slender. The brown-grey skin is rough and wrinkled and has a sparse covering of hair.
One difference between the North Sulawesi babirusa and other members of Suidae is that the species has a 2-chambered stomach. This is more typical of ruminants (such as sheep) than of pigs, which have simple stomachs.
The male North Sulawesi babirusa has two pairs of distinctive curved tusks. The tusks are elongated canine teeth. A pair grows from each jaw.
The lower pair of tusks protrudes from either side of the mouth. The upper pair grows upwards, piercing the roof of the babirusa’s mouth and emerging from the top of its snout.
The upper tusks curl back towards the animal’s forehead. The tusks of some individuals are long enough to pierce the skull.
The evolutionary reason for the babirusa’s tusks is unclear. One theory is that the lower tusks are used as weapons and the upper tusks provide protection for the animal’s face. However, the tusks are brittle and generally not used in fights. The purpose of the babirusa’s tusks may simply be to attract females.
Female babirusas are smaller than males and lack tusks.
The North Sulawesi babirusa is endemic* to the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. (Sulawesi is one of the many islands that comprise the island nation of Indonesia.)
* Endemic means ‘only found in’.
The species is primarily found in northern and northeastern Sulawesi. It may also occur in the central and southeastern parts of the island.
The species has also been recorded in the smaller neighboring islands of Lembeh, Buton and Muna. Whether or not it is still present on these islands is unknown.
You can see Sulawesi on the map below. Zoom out to see where it is in relation to the rest of the world!
The North Sulawesi babirusa inhabits tropical rainforests. It is typically found in areas rich in aquatic vegetation, such as riverbanks or by lakes and ponds.
Over time, the species appears to have moved from coastal areas to less accessible ground at higher elevations. This is possibly as a result of human incursion into their traditional range.
North Sulawesi Babirusa Facts: Behavior
The North Sulawesi babirusa is a social animal. Females frequently form small family groups. These contain up to 8 individuals and include young and subadult animals.
Adult males are either solitary or live in small bachelor herds.
Larger numbers of babirusas may gather around wallowing areas and salt licks (areas in which mineral nutrients occur in the soil).
The babirusa is active throughout the day. It is most highly active in the morning. When not foraging, the babirusa spends its time either keeping cool by wallowing in mud, or resting, either on the bare ground or in vegetation.
The babirusa is not strongly territorial, but does appear to mark its home range. Male babirusas make deep furrows in loose sand, salivating profusely while doing so. This is thought to be a type of scent-marking behavior.
North Sulawesi babirusas are fairly vocal. In addition to a range of grunts and moans they use teeth clattering to communicate with each other.
North Sulawesi Babirusa Facts: Life Cycle
The mating season of the North Sulawesi babirusa occurs between January and August. During this time, males fight for the right to mate with multiple females. Fighting involves the males ‘boxing’ each other with their front hooves.
The gestation period (how long a female is pregnant) is between o150 to 158 days. The female gives birth in a nest she has made from branches. A typical litter consists of 1 to 2 infants. This is unusually small for a member of the pig family.
Newly born babirusas weigh 380 to 1050 g (0.8 to 2.3 lb.). They lack the stripes that are typical of the young of other pigs. The infants begin to feed on solid food just a few days after being born and are weaned at around 6 to 8 months of age.
What Do North Sulawesi Babirusas Eat?
The North Sulawesi babirusa is an omnivore with a diet that tends to be more specialized than that of most other species in the pig family. It eats a variety of plant matter, including leaves, roots, various nuts, fruits and mushrooms. It will also eat invertebrates, small mammals and birds.
The North Sulawesi babirusa forages for food in soft sand and mud. Unusually for a member of the pig family, it doesn’t use its snout for rooting around in the ground. Instead the babirusa uses its hooves to dig for roots and insect larvae.
The babirusa ingests salt deposited near volcanic vents and hot springs by drinking the water and eating the soil found in these areas. Salt licks also are also hubs for social activity, including both fighting and courtship.
North Sulawesi Babirusa Predators
The North Sulawesi babirusa has no natural predators. However, hunting by humans is one of the chief reasons behind the species’ Vulnerable conservation status.
Is The North Sulawesi Babirusa Endangered?
The North Sulawesi babirusa is rated ‘Vulnerable’ by the IUCN.
The total North Sulawesi babirusa population is currently estimated to be fewer than 10,000 mature individuals and declining. This represents a drop of over 30% over 3 generations.
The main threats to the species include:
- Habitat loss: Over 75% of Sulawesi’s original forest cover has been lost, and the remaining areas are under pressure from the spread of commercial logging, ore mining and other land uses.
- Hunting: The babirusas are hunted mainly for their meat, but also for their teeth (which are used by local mask-makers). Hunters may also view babirusas as pests, because they are caught in traps set for other animals.