Friday, May 22, 2015

Saving the Jungle Hipster of Borneo

What is the most important wildlife species on Borneo? Depending on whom you ask this question, answers will surely vary.

A forestry official might argue that any tree of the dipterocarp family is obviously most important, because that’s where the timber cash is. And for the same reason, an oil palm grower would likely reply that the oil palm tree is by far the most important species.

Many people in Australia, Europe or North America may reply “the orangutan,” or maybe “the rhino” or “proboscis monkey,” because, after all, those species are highly threatened and many worry about their survival.

But ask a person from Borneo and the dominant answer would likely be quite different. In fact, I think that many would argue that the Bearded Pig is by far the most important. Are you surprised? Had you even heard of Bearded Pigs? Bear with me and I will explain.

First, a quick 101 on these pigs. This enigmatic species of wild pig occurs only in the southern part of Sumatra and on Borneo. And they indeed have beards, both males and females, and are thus true jungle hipsters, at least in the sense of the current popular beard subculture.

Interestingly, Bearded Pigs are among the very few rainforest species that makes long distance migrations, the kind of animal movement more associated with species like Wildebeest on open African savannas.

Every so many years, Bearded Pig populations erupt and thousands and thousands of pigs starts moving through the jungle.

One such migration which occurred in 1935 was described as follows: “For five or six weeks, at points sixty to a hundred miles [100-160 kilometers] apart, moves a steady stream of wild pigs, a few solitary, some family parties of seven or eight, many packs from fifteen to thirty of forty, occasionally convoys estimated at two hundred, sufficiently large to deter the natives from attack. Every ten minutes or quarter of an hour pigs pass by, a few large, old individuals, many of medium size, none in very fat condition. Silent, not quarrelsome, almost furtive, intent on something, looking round little, they push on undeterred by waiting natives, who club and spear them at river crossings until weary of pork. Whence came the pigs, and where they go none know.”

Intriguing or what?

Now, depending on your religion, you may consider pigs to be rather gross or totally wonderful. Certainly, Christian communities on Borneo heavily rely on these pigs for meat and other products.

Studies in Malaysian Borneo indicated that between 54 percent and 72 percent of the dressed weight of all animals hunted is Bearded Pig meat. A hunting study in one remote village in Kalimantan showed that over a period of 21 months people caught 707 Bearded Pigs, which was probably more than 90 percent of the weight of all species caught. In a different hunting study, people in one village caught 429 Bearded Pigs in one year or about 81 percent of the dressed weight of all species. That adds up to a lot of pork!

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Saving the Jungle Hipster of Borneo