Wild boars adapting well in oil palm plantations

KOTA KINABALU: Bearded pigs or wild boars in Sabah’s Lower Kinabatangan area seem to have successfully adapted to oil palm plantations but there is still a need for them to live within forests.

A scientific study published in Wildlife Research found that the bearded pigs were consistently present in both degraded forest fragments and adjacent oil palm plantations.

However, the animals prefer to use forests more often for their nesting and wallowing than plantations, according to the study carried out by Sabah Wildlife Department, Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC), in collaboration with two foreign universities.

“Our results show just how important forests are for bearded pigs.

“Oil palm fruits may be exploited by bearded pigs, but pigs require many other resources that are typically found in their natural forest habitat,” said lead author Kieran Love who is from DGFC.

He added the forests provide broad food resources, materials for nesting, areas for wallowing, and places for avoiding predators.

The forest habitat is also dependent on pigs for accomplishing many ecosystem processes as the animals consume and disperse seeds, aerate soil and modify plant communities.

Love said they are also an important source of food for higher predators, including vulnerable Sunda clouded leopards.

The bearded pig is a protected species in Sabah but can be hunted with a licence.

It is also considered a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature due to habitat loss and overhunting in many areas.

The bearded pig population in peninsular Malaysia has declined by more than 80% in the last 60 years due to deforestation and fragmentation of key resources.

In parts of Sumatra and Borneo, the species has also been declining as agriculture activities have expanded.

In Borneo, the tradition of bearded pig hunting by the non-Muslim community in rural areas has led to the species being rare or absent in many places.

Co-author David Kurz said that the bearded pigs were present in all forest and most oil palm sites in the study and their condition was robust.

“The fact that we have well-fed bearded pigs throughout a fragmented forest oil palm landscape shows that there may be several options for long-term bearded pig management, which is good news for both hunters and conservationists,” he added.

DGFC director Dr Benoit Goossens said they have just started a long-term study on the spatial ecology of the bearded pig in the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary.

“We aim to fit satellite collars on several animals in order to understand their movements and their use of the oil palm forest landscape,” added Dr Goossens.

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