Twin Visayan warty pigs - a species listed by conservationists as critically endangered - have made their debut at Chester Zoo.

Recent estimates suggests just 200 warty pigs are left in their native habitat in the Visayan Islands in the central Philippines - making them the rarest of all wild pigs.

The decline of the species is blamed mostly on habitat loss and hunting.

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The new piglets are among the first to be born in the zoo’s new Islands exhibit – the largest development in UK zoo history.

Two Visayan warty piglets have been born at Chester Zoo
Two Visayan warty piglets have been born at Chester Zoo

Team manager at the zoo Dave White said: “Once upon a time warty pigs thrived on at least six islands in the Philippines but, today, wild populations can only be found in the little forest that’s left on the islands of Panay and Negros. Sadly, they’ve been driven to the very edge of extinction in the wild.

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“Commercial and illegal logging and agricultural expansion has devastated the forests where they live and, to compound things further, they’re overhunted – in fact their meat can command double the price of domestic pork in local markets and restaurants.

“The Visayan warty pig is a species which is seeing its long-term survival come under serious pressure.”

Chester Zoo was the first zoo in the UK to welcome Visayan warty pigs, a species that gets its name from its small facial warts, when two pairs arrived for conservation breeding purposes in February 2007.

Two Visayan warty piglets born at Chester Zoo forage for food with mum Viv
Two Visayan warty piglets born at Chester Zoo forage for food with mum Viv

Its latest youngsters - born to mum Viv and first time dad Tre - currently boast yellow and brown stripes, a camouflage which will eventually fade at around 9-12 months.

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Keepers are yet to choose names for the new duo – a male and a female – although they will follow in the zoo’s tradition of naming them after punk rock stars in tribute to the spiky, Mohawk-like manes they grow as adults.

Mr White added: “The piglets are vitally important to a breeding programme which is looking to maintain a genetically viable population of the species in zoos around Europe. Already they’re very, very confident, full of energy and extremely curious and playful.

Two Visayan warty piglets have been born at Chester Zoo
Two Visayan warty piglets have been born at Chester Zoo

“It’s our tradition to name our warty pigs after famous punks. Mum Viv was named after Vivien Westwood and dad Tre after Tre Cool, the drummer from the band Greenday!

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“Last year Viv and Tre and the rest of our group of Visayan warty pigs moved into a brand new home at the zoo – a new area in our huge Islands exhibit which puts a spotlight on a whole host of threatened species from South East Asia. Islands is the biggest zoo development of all time in the UK and this successful breeding is a great indicator that they’ve quickly settled in and are comfortable in their new surroundings. We’re really pleased with how they’re getting on.”

In the wild, Chester Zoo has long-supported an education and breeding programme in the Philippines which, working with local communities, is actively engaged in protecting the Visayan warty pig and its forest habitat.