JOHOR BARU: Most people view wild boars as a nuisance, especially when they wander out of the jungle and destroy farmed vegetables and plants, but one species of this pig is actually a migratory animal which can travel long distances.
The Sumatran bearded pigs, which weigh as much as 100kg, are also good swimmers and take advantage of the changes in sea tide to get them across the Straits of Malacca.
Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) Johor vice chairman Vincent Chow said there were mainly two types of wild boar in Malaysia, the commonly found Eurasian species and the bearded one, which is locally known as Babi Bodoh or Babi Berjanggut.
“These bearded pigs are known to be migratory animals which can travel vast distances, sometime as far as from Vietnam to Thailand to Pahang and Johor. They sometimes use coastal routes.
“They also make their way to Pontian, then to Pulau Pisang and Pulau Karimun in Indonesia before reaching mainland Sumatera, ’ he said, adding that some would use Melaka as a transit point before crossing the straits to Pulau Rupat in Indonesia.
“They are like migratory birds which travel from Siberia to New Zealand during the winter, ” he said, adding that the bearded pigs moved around foraging for food.
Chow said these pigs usually migrate from Indonesia when the low-lying areas get flooded and head towards Malaysia, including to Melaka and Johor.
“Once food sources here are exhausted, they will then go back to Sumatera via the same route, ” he said.
He said in the 1950s, these pigs used to move by the hundreds or even in the thousands, but in recent years due to deforestation and their natural habitat shrinking or destroyed, they moved in smaller numbers.
“In the 1950s, when travelling back to Kluang via the trunk road, traffic would come to a standstill as we will have to wait almost 30 minutes to allow a few thousand pigs to cross, ” he said, adding that the pigs were travelling between Pahang and Mersing.
On how these species cross the Straits of Malacca, Chow explained added that they did not make the journey directly but made stopovers on tiny islands between Malaysia and Indonesia.
“Their movements across the countries have been documented by researchers who studied the migration pattern of the Sumatran bearded pigs, ” he said, adding that this migratory phenomenon could also be explained with the recent discovery of Babi Bodoh on Pulau Besar.Chow said the habits of the bearded pig were well documented in a 455-page book titled Ecology, Conservation and Management of Wild Pigs and Peccaries which has a chapter on this animal.
The chapter in the 2018 book was written by researchers Matthew Scott Luskin and Alison Ke.
He said Babi Bodoh was a protected species in Johor as they were “food” for tigers in the state’s forests.
“Their numbers have dwindled and are mainly found in Johor and Pahang, ” he said, adding that if the pigs were a nuisance in places such as Melaka, efforts should be made to trap them alive and relocate to jungles in Johor with the help of the Wildlife and National Parks Department.
Chow said Johor MNS was willing to work with Melaka government to find a new home for the animals by relocating them here.
He said this would save them from being killed.
In Melaka, the number of wild boar-related complaints has increased, with 125 cases for the first 10 months of this year and 457 pigs have been culled.