Palawan bearded pig (Sus ahoenobarbus)

Synonyms: Sus barbatus ahoenobarbus
GenusSus (1)
SizeLength: 1.0-1.6 m (2)
Height: up to 1 m (2)
Weightup to 150 kg (2)

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).

Until recently, the bearded pigs of south-east Asia were thought to comprise three subspecies under the scientific name Sus barbatus. However, genetic evidence now shows that the Palawan bearded pig warrants recognition as a distinct species (1) (6) (7). Like its former conspecifics, the Palawan bearded pig has an elongated skull and a dense tuft of coarse, white hair surrounding the cheek and snout. Supported on long legs, its large body is reddish-brown to black and sparsely haired (2) (3) (4). The male is slightly larger than the female and has small but marked facial warts, which are thought to provide protection during head-to-head fights (2) (3) (4) (5).

Endemic to the Philippines, the Palawan bearded pig only occurs on the islands of Balabac, Palawan and Calamian (4).

The Palawan bearded pig lives and forages mainly in evergreen forests, from sea-level up to around 1,500 metres, but is also known to encroach on cultivated land on forest edges (4) (6).

Very little is known about the specific biology of the Palawan beaded pig other than what has been inferred in the past from observations of the beaded pigs of Indonesia and Malaysia, Sus barbatus barbatus and S. b. oi. However, the Palawan bearded pig is thought to be much more sedentary than Sus barbatus, dispensing with the periodic mass migrations both the subspecies reportedly undertake (4).

All bearded pigs have a diverse diet comprised primarily of fruits and seeds, but also including everything from roots and fungus to small vertebrates and carrion (2) (4). Adult males are normally solitary but the females and young forage in matriarchal family groups, sometimes merging to former larger herds (4). The peak breeding season coincides with the transition from flowering to early fruit formation in the forest, suggesting the pigs may take a visual cue to breed from the falling petals (4). Following mating, the female builds a temporary nest from vegetation in which she will give birth to a litter of 3 to 11 piglets, following a gestation period lasting 90 to 120 days. The nest will only be used by the mother and her piglets for a week to ten days (3) (4).

As a result of heavy hunting and rapid habitat loss over an already restricted range, the Palawan bearded pig is the most threatened bearded pig in south-east Asia (8) (9). High rates of population growth, coupled with low-income are forcing local people into subsistence agriculture at the expense of Palawan’s wildlife-rich forests (10). Furthermore, despite the banning of commercial logging throughout the Palawan province in the 1990s, small-scale illegal operations are still responsible for continued depletion of forested areas (6). The impact deforestation is having on the Palawan bearded pig is compounded by intensive hunting for meat and, in particular, the increased use of non-traditional hunting methods such as explosives (6) (8) (11).

As of yet, there are no conservation measures in place specifically targeting the Palawan bearded pig. One of the most significant limitations to developing a conservation strategy is that so little information, particularly concerning its populations status, is known. An action plan written in 1993 by the IUCN Pigs, Peccaries and Hippos Specialist Group stressed the need for basic research to establish, amongst other things, the size and range of the existing population (4). Fifteen years on, and with no reason to believe the Palawan bearded pig is any less threatened than it was in the early 1990s, this basic information still appears to be lacking.

For further information on the Palawan bearded pig see:

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  1. IUCN Red List (April, 2008)
  2. National Research Council. (2002) Little-Known Asian Animals with a Promising Economic Future. Books for Business, New York.
  3. Esselstyn, J.A., Widmann, P. and Heaney, L.R. (2004) The mammals of Palawan Island, Philippines. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, 117(3): 271 - 302.
  4. Lucchini, V., Meijaard, E., Diong, C.H., Groves, C.P. and Randi, E. (2005) New phylogenetic perspectives among species of Southeast Asian wild pig (Sus sp.) based on mtDNA sequences and morphometric data. Journal of Zoology, 266: 25 - 35.
  5. Macdonald, D.W. (2006) The Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  6. Caldecott, J.O., Blouch, R.A. and Macdonald, A.A. (1993) The bearded pig (Sus barbatus). In: Oliver, W.L.R. (Ed) Pigs, peccaries, and hippos: status survey and conservation action plan. International Union for the Conservation of Nature, Gland, Switzerland.
  7. Burnie, D. (2001) Animal. Dorling Kindersley, London.
  8. Blouch, R.A. (1995) Conservation and research priorities for threatened Suids of South and Southeast Asia. IBEX Journal of Mountain Ecology, 3: 21 - 25.
  9. Oliver, W. (1995) The taxonomy, distribution and status of Philippine wild pigs. IBEX Journal of Mountain Ecology, 3: 26 - 32.
  10. Shively, G.E. and Pagiola, S. (2004) Agricultural intensification, local labor markets, and deforestation in the Philippines. Environment and Development Economics, 9: 241 - 266.
  11. Shively, G.E. (1997) Poverty, technology, and wildlife hunting in Palawan. Environmental Conservation, 24(1): 57 - 63.