A rare animal on an Indonesian island deserves to be designated "endangered," according to a survey of Bawean warty pigs on Bawean Island.
Fewer than 250 of the pigs remain, a research team out of VHL University of Applied Sciences, The Netherlands, concluded, in a study just published in the journal PLOS ONE.
The pigs live nowhere else on Earth except for Bawean Island, off the north coast of Java, and until now scientists have had only museum specimens and the stories of local islanders to help them understand the animal's behavior and gauge its conservation status.
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To get a better idea about the animal's status – as well as when they were most active and where they preferred to live - the VHL team set up camera traps at 100 locations on the island and studied the footage.
In addition to coming up with the sub-250 population number, the scientists also learned that Bawean pigs were most active after dark, foraging on community-owned forest land.
The forests in which the pigs forage at night hold roots and tubers – high-energy food for the pigs. However, dining on community lands puts them at risk of conflict with local populations, the researchers said.
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True to its name the pig has distinctive markings.
"While females look very similar to wild boar," said study co-author Johanna Rode-Margono in a statement, "the male Bawean warty pig has three pairs of enormous warts on each side of its face."
In light of its tiny population, Rode-Margono called the creature "one of the rarest pig species on Earth."
Given its low population density, and the limited space in which it lives, the authors of the study argue that Bawean pigs should at least be designated "Endangered" on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's "red list" of threatened species.