Hidden cameras have captured remarkable footage showing the live birth of a babirusa piglet – one of the rarest pig species in the world – for the very first time.
The never-before-seen footage, captured at Chester Zoo, is at the heart of a Channel 4 series, The Secret Life of The Zoo.
The tiny male piglet, named Bukaan, arrived to mum Kendari, four, following a five-month-long pregnancy.
Director general Dr Mark Pilgrim, said: “Very few people in the world, if any, will have ever witnessed a babirusa give birth. To be able to watch, for the very first time, those incredible tender first moments between mum and baby is very, very special indeed.
“The footage is truly unique and some of the information we can learn from it may be really helpful in terms of the conservation breeding of the endangered species in the future.”
Babirusa are found on the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia where their numbers have plummeted to an estimated 5,000 individuals.
The species was once thought to be reasonably common but a history of hunting for their meat and destruction of their habitat has seen them largely disappear from some areas of Sulawesi.
Curator of mammals Tim Rowlands, added: “When Kendari’s new piglet grows up he will sport a face full of twisted tusks, a large wet snout, warts and will be almost completely hairless, just like his dad, Sausu. But looks aren’t everything! This species is incredibly special and he’s such an important new arrival.
“Babirusa are under huge pressure in Sulawesi. They’re vulnerable to extinction and Kendari’s latest piglet is a significant addition to the world’s population.
“As their survival in the wild is put at risk, zoo breeding programmes are an important way of ensuring the species does not die out altogether. We are one of only a handful of zoos worldwide which has successfully bred these distinctive animals – something we’ve achieved on several occasions in the last few years – and we’re very proud to be playing a key part in the long-term conservation of these charismatic animals.
“Our work with the babirusa also doesn’t stop within the boundaries of the zoo. We’re working out in Indonesia where, alongside international conservationists and the government, we’re supporting the conservation of the species to counteract the ever increasing threats to its survival in its homeland.”
The piglet was born on July 1 but, given the sensitive nature of the species, mum had been caring for her youngster in a special behind-the-scenes breeding area.
But now, Kendari has shown off her important new charge to the public for the first time in the zoo’s Islands habitat.
The Secret Life of The Zoo is broadcast on Channel 4 on Thursdays at 8pm.
The piglet, named by keepers as Bukaan, was born in the early hours of July 1.
Mum Kendari will be five at the end of October.
Dad is called Sausu.
Babirusa go through a five-month-long pregnancy.
They feed on fruit, seeds, nuts, insects and fungi.
In Malay, the name babirusa means ‘pig deer’.
Listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as vulnerable to extinction.
The species, which was once thought to be reasonably common, has largely disappeared from some areas of Sulawesi where they are targeted by hunters for their meat and threatened by the loss of their tropical rainforests habitat, as it taken over by farmers and developers.