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An Ultimate Ungulate Fact Sheet
Babyrousa babyrussa
Moluccan babirusa
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Common name:
Scientific name:
Other names:
Moluccan babirusa
Babyrousa babyrussa
Golden babirusa, hairy babirusa, Buru babirusa

In 2002, the three living subspecies of babirusa were elevated to distinct species. A fourth, now-extinct form from central Sulawesi (B. bolabatuensis) shows some skull similarities to B. babyrussa, but their relationship is unknown. While the Moluccan babirusa retains the original scientific name, this species is very poorly known; most of the scientific literature prior to 2002 using the name Babyrousa babyrussa actually refers to the Sulawesi babirusa, B. celebensis.

Physical Characteristics

No specific measurements available. Known primarily from museum specimens, the Moluccan babirusa is the smallest babirusa on the basis of skull size. The overall coloration is pale gray; a coat of conspicuous pale brown or golden hairs (estimated to be 3-5 cm long) imparts a yellowish tone across the body. Intermixed with these golden hairs are dark or black hairs, although their prominence varies between individuals. Females may be darker than males. There is a prominent tuft of hair at the end of the tail. As with other babirusas, the canine teeth of males form remarkable tusks. The lower canines rise vertically with a backward curl from the mandible, while the roots of the upper canines are rotated such that they grow up through the snout and arch backwards towards the eyes. These upper canines typically diverge or are parallel to each other. The tusks tend to be smaller and more delicate than in other babirusa species, and the upper tusks emerge closer to the end of the snout and have a wider gap between them compared to other babirusas. When viewed from the side, the lower tusks cross the upper tusks.

Similar species

Reproduction and Development

Nothing known, but presumably similar to the Sulawesi babirusa (Babyrousa celebensis).

Ecology and Behavior

Although likely similar in habits to the Sulawesi babirusa (Babyrousa celebensis), no scientific studies of the Moluccan babirusa have been conducted, and our only knowledge of this species comes from anecdotal reports from local communities. On Buru, the species is reported to live in hilly terrain far from human habitation, and multiple surveys report that it does not destroy crops like the other pigs (Sus sp.) that inhabit the island. The Moluccan babirusa is most often seen in the morning and late afternoon. As with other babirusa, a tendency to soak and wallow in puddles and rivers has been noted. Other frequently-reported observations on this species include an ability to run uphill quickly and an ability to swim well. Although generally quiet, the principal vocalization supposedly resembles the grunting of other pigs. The pattern of tusk wear on the upper canines of males suggests that head-on butting may play a role in aggressive encounters between individuals. Old reports claim that males will hook their tusks over branches or vines to help them sleep while standing on their hind legs, although it seems doubtful that this actually occurs.
Family group: Reported as solitary ("walks alone") or in small groups of around three individuals.
Diet: Leaves, shoots, tubers, fruit.
Main Predators: None reported.

Habitat and Distribution

The Moluccan babirusa is confined to three small Indonesian islands between Sulawesi and Papua New Guinea: the island of Buru, and two of the Sula Islands, Taliabu and Mangole (Mangoli). The limited evidence available indicates that this species has disappeared from the island of Sulabesi (Sanana). It has been suggested that babirusa may have been introduced to these islands, but the source population is unknown; few specimens are available from neighbouring parts of Sulawesi. Local reports from Buru suggest that the Moluccan babirusa is now restricted to upland forests and mountainous terrain, away from areas inhabited by humans. The approximate range is depicted in the map below.

Range Map
(from Macdonald, Burton, and Leus, 2008)

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List: Vulnerable (2008).
CITES Listing: Appendix I (2017).
Threats: Habitat loss due to logging and conversion for agriculture.

Very little is known on the conservation status of the Moluccan babirusa, besides a general decline in population numbers inferred from historical records and recent interviews with local communitiess. While much of the lowland rainforest on the islands of Buru and Taliabu has already been cleared, there are still significant areas of rainforest habitat that appear relatively secure. The third island, Mangole, has very little forst cover remaining. This species has been extirpated from the island of Sulabesi.

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