Babirusa: Pig-deer with a dental problem (photo)

The babirusa has been called the wild pig with a dental problem, according to the National Geographic WildWorld website. “Its upper canine teeth, or tusks, curve back and grow up through the top of its snout instead of out of the side of the mouth!”

In the native language in the region where babirusas roam in the wild, in Indonesia, babirusa means pig-deer, “because its tusks look somewhat like the antlers of a deer,” WildWorld adds.


Photo by Julie Larsen Maher, WCS

I have to admit I’ve never heard of this animal, and I struggled to find mention of it anywhere on the National Geographic website.

So I was pleased to receive this photo of a babirusa, sent to us by New York’s Bronx Zoo today. Their babirusa was caught emerging from a mud bath by zoo photographer Julie Larsen Maher.

“Sibu, a male babirusa at the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo, spends a warm spring day in his exhibit…after taking a mud bath,” WCS said in the caption released with the photo.

“These pigs live in tropical rainforests on only a few Indonesian Islands,” WCS added. “Only male babirusas have long, backward curving upper tusks, but both sexes have lower tusks.”

I’ll tell you who does seem to know a lot about these pig-deers. Check out Darren Naish’s posts about babirusas on his Tetrapod Zoology blog (part of the ScienceBlogs family). Be sure to click through all six or seven parts.

You can also find out more on Babirusa.Org, a site dedicated to conserving babirusas in Indonesia.

Or you can visit the Bronx Zoo and see a live babirusa the next time you’re in New York.

Changing Planet

Meet the Author
More than forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Max Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. In his 22-year career at National Geographic he was VP and editor in chief of National Geographic Digital Media, and the founding editor of the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directed the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. A regular expert on National Geographic Expeditions, David also lectures on storytelling for impact. He has 120,000 followers on social media: Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn