Bornean bearded pigs on the road to recovery

KOTA KINABALU: Bornean bearded pigs have not only made a comeback in Sabah’s east coast Tabin Wildlife Centre, they are expanding their territory, says a conservationist.

Bring Back Our Rare Animals (Bora) project manager Dr Zainal Zahari Zainuddin said its camera traps have revealed that the Tabin conservation area population is growing steadily.

“The wild boar population has rebounded and expanded its territory. Before the end of 2023, we can expect some 20 female wild pigs to produce second-generation piglets, so there will be a multiplier effect,” he said.

The bearded pig was severely hit by the African Swine Fever (ASF) epidemic that emerged in late 2020, with hundreds found dead in the wild.

Conservationists were worried that ASF would wipe out the wild pig population. A hunting banned was imposed by the state.

Dr Zainal warned that the hunting of this species should not be rushed into as there was still a need for it to recover across the state.

“I think there is a need for wild boars to repopulate more areas in the state. I believe that more security is in place to check wild boar hunting to expedite the population increase,” he said.

Dr Zainal also said that pigs on commercial and domestic farms close to forest reserves should be monitored closely for ASF.

Domestic pigs need to be constantly checked as ASF could spread again to the Bornean species of wild boar, scientifically known as Sus barbatus, in reserves near the farms.

On Friday, Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Seri Dr Jeffrey Kitingan said there were reports of recent sightings of the bearded pigs in several districts in Sabah, a sign of its recovery after the ASF outbreak almost decimated the population.

Kitingan, who is also the state Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Industry Minister, said increased sightings of families of wild pigs were reported in Nabawan, Kinabatangan and Lahad Datu, among others.

He, however, remained cautious about any plan to lift the wild boar hunting ban and expects any decision to be made after six months as the sightings needed to be verified.

He said the Veterinary Services Department would continue monitoring the ASF situation closely.

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